Archive for July, 2008

Jesus Missing in Action in Purpose-Driven Preaching?

July 11th, 2008 1 comment

You might be familiar with “word clouds” — graphic depictions of what word and thoughts predominate in a given text under analysis. Here are two such word clouds. First, a Lutheran sermon preached by my friend Bill Cwirla. Second, a word cloud analysis of a sermon by the Southern Baptist pastor, of “purpose driven” fame, Rick Warren. The results speak for themselves.

Here is the Lutheran sermon:


Here is Warren’s sermon:


A Stone Tablet Describing a Resurrected Messiah?

July 11th, 2008 1 comment


Have you heard about the stone tablet that describes a resurrected Messiah? Some are hailing it as a threat to Christianity. Others see it as a helpful support for historic Christianity. If you would like to hear two very good presentations on this situations, you can listen to two interviews with scholars on Issues, Etc. recently.

Dr. Jeff Kloha, of Concordia Seminary, Saint Louis

Dr. Ben Witherington of Asburry Theological Seminary

Photo of the tablet. 06stone-500

Categories: Uncategorized

As the Rubrics Turn

July 11th, 2008 8 comments

I had an amusing little exchange, but also kind of sad, by way of follow up to a post I made here. A certain pastor felt a need to level the charge that unless a person holds his fingers together after the consecration, so as not to permit any particle of the host to fall to the ground, then that person must be a receptionist since they do not care that the body of Christ would be allowed to fall away during the Sacrament.

Hmmm….interesting point of view, no? So, all you pastors out there who are not using 13th century Papal Rubrics are placing yourself under suspicion of being a bunch of “receptionists”, or, as this pastor put it recently, you might be among those who “don’t really believe in the Real Presence.” Got it? Just thought you should know.

On the other hand, as I informed this pastor, given his scruples, I am shocked he celebrates the Lord’s Supper at all! For surely he must know that there are atoms, molecules and other bits and particles of the Blessed Body and Blood that are here and there on the altar and no doubt not ending up where they are intended: into the mouth of the communicants, and so, I suggested shock that he would do anything that might possibly result in such a situation, up and including celebrating the Sacrament at all!

And so the wheel of rubric-obsessive legalism of the hyper-ritualists turns!

I’m quite sure our dear Lord suffers His body and blood to be accidentally dropped, and the atoms, molecules and otherwise that do are, within the proper use and action of the Sacrament, truly His body and blood. Why, I think I read somewhere that He even suffered His body and blood to be splattered and scattered by scourge, nail, and spear, for us, and for our salvation. Reverence? Yes. Hyper-ritualization? No.

The Value of the Liturgy: A Convert’s View

July 10th, 2008 6 comments


Here is a well written summary of how the Lutheran liturgy is a blessing to those coming in to our congregations from churches that either are non-liturgical or who have moved away from it. This is written by Mr. James Blasius. He is happy to grant permission to reproduce this for anyone who finds it helpful.

I grew up in a fine Presbyterian church – a good church, excepting for the Sunday school unit on higher criticism that traumatized me. But one thing of which the Presbyterians never had much, and now have
less is the liturgy. And liturgy is something I desperately wanted. I
didn’t know it’s what I wanted, but I loved the few times we’d do
responsive readings from the Psalms, the doxologies, and so on.

a nouveau Lutheran (vs. an Old Lutheran, who would have the catechism memorized, would know the colors of the church year, and would know the
difference between Matins and, um, not-Matins), I may yet have some
insights on the liturgy that those who have lived with it don’t: A poor
man might have a greater appreciation for the marvel that is clean tap
water than a rich man.

  1. The liturgy is memorable. I love confession and absolution, and
    miss it terribly when the service doesn’t have it. Because I can
    remember so much of the liturgy, the confession rolls off my lips any
    time I am reminded of my sinfulness (although I don’t typically absolve
    myself). The words are concise, essential, complete, scriptural. And
    there are the songs, praise, thanksgiving, doctrine. These appear on
    the tip of my tongue at appropriate or inappropriate moments. It gives
    me a wider repertoire than I had as a child, where our regular service
    component was limited to a doxology and a benediction.
  2. It’s Biblical. The Lutheran Service Book has nice scriptural references next to each
    part of the liturgy, and Christians love to hear the words of
    scripture. They dig it. Scripture makes ‘em want to dance in their
    underwear (well, an ephod) as the ark did for David. In a world where a
    standard church reading is one verse, being surrounded by scripture
    throughout the service is A Good Thing.
  3. It’s participatory. Try going to a service where your only participation is to sing a hymn, or worse, just sit there and listen to a person with a microphone on a stage.
    It’s better to be able to have a role and speak the words of scripture
    as part of the body of Christ. Our society is oriented towards the
    individual, but the church is a body with each part doing working
    together. Somehow liturgy makes that real.
  4. It unites us with Christians of all times and places. Liturgy unifies us only with the Christians next to us, but
    with the larger church in “all times and places.” The liturgy is
    similar to what was done 1000 years ago and 1900 years ago, and the
    singing of psalms goes back to David’s day. Another way to look at it:
    In New Testament days, there were no pastors driving up the aisles on
    Harleys and there were no swaying dancers in church, but there was most
    certainly the singing of the scriptures, there were doxologies and Scripturally meaningful songs of praise.
  5. It’s musical. Music means something to us that’s
    different from prose. The Psalms have been sung since they were first
    written: David, in addition to dancing before the ark, was singing and
    making music with Israel when the ark was being brought to Jerusalem,
    and Paul writes in Ephesians 5 about “addressing one another in  psalms
    and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord
    with your heart.” And music is beautiful. There is value in it, and
    liturgical services are brimming with it.
  6. It’s a wonderful vehicle for the Sacraments. I think of it like wrapping on a gift. It beautifies the Lord’s gifts coming to us through Word and Sacraments and underscores and highlights what we believe, teach and confess about the means of grace: God acting among us and for us. Reverent, holy, sacred, a place and  time set-apart—that’s why the liturgy is a great delivery-system for the Sacraments.

One can have a good church without a good liturgy, but good liturgy
is an excellent tool for worship and the Christian life. I’d put it as
second in importance only to sound doctrine, in my opinion, for it supports and enhances the teaching of God’s Word.

Categories: Convert's Stories

Bach on the Banjo — Seriously

July 9th, 2008 2 comments

Yes, it’s true, even on the banjo, Bach is beautiful music.

Categories: Bach

More on Reservation: The Lost Luther Reference

July 8th, 2008 16 comments

With apologies to many of my blog site’s readers, for whom the following will be perceived as far too much “insider” debate, I feel I must continue to address some serious mistakes and errors in opinions being expressed by men whom I admire and respect and count as friends. But I believe they are, and remain, on this issue, wrong. I’ve broken this post down into an extended entry so as not to over-burden my readers who choose simply to ignore this post.

There is a lively discussion underway across several blogs on the question of what the left-over bread and wine are when the celebration of the Lord’s Supper is concluded. There are some unfortunate accusations being made that those who do not regard the consecrated bread and wine that remain to be the body and blood of Christ are receptionists. They are missing a very important distinction. Melanchthon and his followers were trying to fix the moment of the presence of Christ to a definite point within the action of the celebration of the Lord’s Supper to the moment when bread and wine passed the lips of the communicants. This is “receptionism.” For more on this distinction and these details see this excellent summary of the issues.

Let me try to make my case, without rancor or ill will. I intend
neither, though I must confess my weak flesh gets the better of me and
I get frustrated by these conversations. And I apologize for letting
these frustrations show too much in my words.

Read more…

Categories: Uncategorized

On Reserving the Elements of Holy Communion

July 7th, 2008 5 comments

There has been a bit of a buzz across the Lutheran Blogosphere with the [thankfully few] pastors who are committed to insisting that the bread and wine that remains after the Divine Service, remain perpetually the body and blood of Christ. One chap delivered himself of the opinion that in spite of what Luther and Chemnitz has to say on the practice, and what our Confessions have to say about it, it is not what they say that counts here, but what they don’t say that really matters. This strange argument from silence, shaky as it is, is being put forward as a legitimate reason to reserve the elements after the Sacrament, regarding them perpetually to be the body and blood of Christ. Here is my response to these latest musings.

I’m really quite puzzled why men who have pledged themselves to the Lutheran Confessions, who have read how Martin Luther is appealed to as the “chief teacher of the churches of the Augsburg Confession,” and whose writings on the Lord’s Supper are specifically held up in the vein of: “For more on this, read Luther” in the Confessions, can, in my opinion, be so dismissive of Luther’s position. The “lost Luther reference” has been returned to an English edition of the BOC, adding even more weight to the position of our chief teacher on these matters.

The entire freight/weight of the issue as addressed in the Confessions stands firmly against reservation, for any reason. Further, an argument constructed to support reservation based on the silence of our Confessions is even more difficult for me to understand.

Why can we not agree that we should consume what has been consecrated, as our Lord would have us do? Even if we are not of the same mind about what it may be after the Divine Service is over, we can say without any doubt what it is in the action and proper use of the Supper, as the Formula makes abundantly clear.

Dismissing Dr. Ziegler’s excellent study is unfortunate. Some, sadly, describe what I can only describe as disdain for Lutheran fathers and traditions. They are permitting, in my view, a romanticized view of the Early Church to trump the proper teachings and traditions and opinions of our Lutheran fathers, who are more than worthy of our respect and honor. It is as if the first five hundred year of writings, good as they might be, are far superior to our own Lutheran fathers and their teachings.

Martin Luther and our fathers all agree that we are to consume what is consecrated. If we do happen to have consecrated elements left [something that apparently, just as our fathers warn, leads to foolish questions and useless speculations], we should treat them with great reverence and respect. But when we commune the sick and shut-in, I believe it is very poor pastoral practice not to consecrate the elements and speak the Word of our Lord, a consecrating Word, in their hearing. Let them hear the Lord saying into their years, “This is my body…this is my blood…for you.” A conditional consecration, or a mere assurance of consecration, is most unfortunate, along the lines of an assurance of absolution, rather than the absolving words themselves.

I particularly am troubled by the patronizing attitude, as I perceive it, and forgive me if I misunderstand this, when I hear pastors say that they repeat the Verba, “for the communicants faith.” In other words, what I’m hearing them to say is, “Of course I the pastor know what this is, but for the benefit of the weak in faith, who seem to have a need to hear the Verba repeated, I say them.” This is an attitude that is contrary to our Confessions, which make it very clear that there is never to be a celebration without the Verba.

If in fact the Verba are repeated, not by way of assurance, or along the lines of, “We said this on Sunday” but as they are from our Lord, then I suppose this is, in the final analysis a moot point, since, despite what the pastor’s speculation might be, the fact is that the communicant has the sure and certain promise of their Lord, whose words have just been put into their ears, and that Word creates, and gives, what it says. Therefore, pastoral speculations aside, there is a consecration and our Lord’s Word of Promise and Institution are being said and the body and blood of Christ are under the bread and wine.

So, finally, if some pastors insist on regarding the bread and wine after the benediction in the Divine Service to be the body and blood of Christ and do not shut it up, reverence it, adore it, pray to it and otherwise misuse it, but distribute it to the sick and shut-in, saying the Words of Institution as declaration and promise, not as mere assurance, or “for those whose faith require it,” then we should not be too opposed to their opinions about the bread and wine that remain after a celebration of the Lord’s Supper, as long as they remain just that: private opinions and speculations. And as long as they speak the word of our Lord as they are to be spoken: consecrating and instituting words of promise, declarations, not mere assurances.

Promotional Video for Traditional Lutheranism

July 7th, 2008 Comments off

Feel free to use this on your blog sites, etc. if you feel it is helpful. Be sure to scroll down my page and “pause” the Bach playlist so you can hear the audio clearly.

Categories: Lutheranism

“When Did I Become a Lutheran?” A Layman’s Answer

July 4th, 2008 5 comments

Luther's rose
A Lutheran layman, a convert, prepared this little essay that I found to be extremely thought-provoking. Perhaps you will as well. Here is what layman Mr. Michael Baker had to say, when asked, “When did you become a Lutheran?”

When Did I Become a Lutheran?

While some bean-counter will tell me that I became a Lutheran when I
joined the Lutheran church body to which I belong, I tend to disagree.
You see, I am a rarity among converts. I did not even really know
anything about Lutheranism until long after I left charismatic
Anabaptism. Why did I leave charismatic Anabaptism? I started to read
the Bible. When I read the Bible with discernment, I found Scripture
that explicitly contradicted many of their teachings. I left because
they were teaching false doctrine and I could no longer stomach it.

A few years later, I worked past my disillusion and decided to find a
church that did not teach false doctrine. A few years of sulking was
not a transition from one church to another. It was a conscious
decision born out of years of objective research that measured many
Christian and several pseudo-Christian faiths against Holy Scripture
and church tradition on a level playing field. I resolved to find the
truth and join the faith that best agreed with truth.

At the conclusion of this journey, I selected Lutheranism. I then
searched for Lutheran churches and Lutheran church bodies, to find the
one that was the most faithful to what I had been reading and what I
had come to believe.

My confession: When I set foot in my current congregation, I had to
take several trips back to my car to bring in my stacks of theological
books and research notes. I held up my copy of the Book of Concord and
told the pastor, “This is what I believe. Do you teach and follow this

So I ask, “When did I become Lutheran?”

If I became Lutheran when I confessed Lutheran doctrine, then
Lutheranism is objective truth that can be believed and understood –
not just corporately, but individually as well. If Lutheranism is true
and objective, then it needs no followers to be the correct confession.
That is why I selected it. I knew nothing of controversies, synods, and
church politics the day that I joyously declared, “I am Lutheran!,” for
the first time. I did not know how many problems there may be in
actually practicing Lutheranism. But I knew truth when I saw it. At
that point, I could not be anything that disagreed with the truth. I
should have realized that the ideal of Lutheranism is always practiced
by people who are very much sinful human beings. There is no perfection
on this planet, no perfection in any Lutheran church either. I get that

For me, the truths that are expressed in Lutheranism are objective and
imperative. As much as my heart grieves for those who attend a
whacked-out congregation that is only pretending to be Lutheran, this
has no bearing on the validity of my confession. I confessed
Lutheranism long before I joined a corporate body. I confessed it the
day that I discovered that I could no longer commune with my family. I
confess each day that I learn about a new horrible problem (both real
and perceived) within the church body that I am in.

I confess the Book of Concord. My copy of the Book of Concord has my
signature inked just below the list of original signatories. That is a
very personal and intimate thing for me. I do not confess Lutheranism
because I am Lutheran. I am Lutheran because I confess Lutheran
teaching. I am Lutheran because I agree with the teachings contained in
this book, and that is what people who agree with this book are called.

If extremists on either side of my Lutheran denomination tear it apart,
and cause it to schism, I will still confess the teachings of the Book
of Concord. If a day comes when my Lutheran church requires me to go
against the confessions, I will rebuke her and confess Lutheranism. If
I should be stranded on a desolate island for the rest of my life, I
will still confess Lutheran doctrine and practice. Real Presence is
objectively true. Justification by faith alone is objectively true. As
far as the validity of truth is concerned, what others do or think is

If a group calling itself the “Purple Zamboni Church of Lower New
Brunswick” takes up the Book of Concord and begins to follow it
confessionally as the founders did, then I will encourage my church
body to follow their example. If my Lutheran church does not listen, I
will leave and join the PZCLNB… and start to lobby for the
Zamboni-ists to pick a better name.

Do I confess Lutheranism because I was born Lutheran? No.

…because I like everything I see happening in Lutheran church bodies? No. I don’t.

…because Lutheranism is the rebound faith that I fled to? No rebound here.

…because my pastor is a good guy? No. (He is, but that is beside the point.)

…because I like Lutheran music and liturgy? I hated it at first.

…because I like Germany and Scandinavia? Never been to either locale.

…because I was witnessed to by Lutherans? No, modern Lutherans are horrible at this.

…because I think that Lutherans are better Christians than other Christians? They’re not.

…because Lutherans have all the answers? No. Lutheranism thrives on
paradox. Lutheranism can only tell you what it has been told by
Scripture. Lutherans have the fewest answers of any Christian
confession. They don’t know squat because they don’t make stuff up when
things do not make sense.

I confess this confession because no one has been able to show me where
it is objectively false. I confess it because I firmly believe that it
is the true explanation of God’s Word and stands apart as superior
against all other human opinions. I confess it because of the human
speculation and opinion that it lacks. I confess it because it is the
clearest path to my Crucified and now Risen Savior, Jesus Christ.

Nothing will come between me and this true expression of Christianity… including Lutherans.

Categories: Lutheranism

A Strong and Independent Voice for Traditional Lutheranism

July 4th, 2008 Comments off

Today we Americans celebrate the blessings and benefits of being an independent nation. I was thinking of the blessings of independence and the freedom that it affords. My mind turned to the Lutheran World Federation and the troubles and problems it continues to experience, particularly its continuing failure, as an entity, to confess the doctrine of our Lutheran Confessions, clearly, consistently and faithfully and to reject and condemn doctrines contrary to the Lutheran Confessions. The LWF can not even clearly insist that all members must confess the doctrines of the Small Catechism and reject all errors contrary to them. At a recent gathering of the LWF, the issue of homosexuality reared its ugly head, actually, according to the story below, its ugly head was quite vigorously pummeled by the bishop of Tanzania, and he was pointedly and promptly rebuked by the head of the LWF, Bishop Mark Hansen, in a unique form of language, which could be called, “ecclesio-admin speak.”

There are strong and active voices both within and outside of The LWF that look to The LCMS to be and remain a strong, independent voice for historic, traditional Lutheranism. Sometimes I hear talk that The LCMS should become an “associate member” of the LWF. In my opinion, we do much better to devote our time and resources to teaching and reaching as many people as possible with this message, rather than becoming enmeshed in the LWF‘s endless administrative structures, meetings and gatherings, where consistently voices advocating traditional Lutheran positions on doctrine and morality are sidelined and shunned.

I am thinking, for instance, of how Bishop Walter Obare of Kenya was thrown off the LWF Executive Council for his advocacy of a strong Lutheran presence in Sweden, while all the while advocates of homosexuality, abortion rights and the doctrines of liberal Christianity remain and are praised, hailed, advanced and promoted throughout the LWF. Here is an excerpt from Bishop Obare’s speech to the LWF Council, shortly before they voted to remove him:

. . . . So what is concealed behind the terms
“differentiated consensus,” “reconciled diversity,” and
“unity without demanding uniformity,” is something quite different from what
they [Lutheran liberals] state on the face of it. Rather, these are expressions
of the dominating will of a powerful elite who seek to enforce their ideologies
on the rest of the church.  They conceal
with a thin veneer the will -to-power operative in the church today.  We have watched this happen over and over in
liberal, Northern Christianity.  Liberal
theological trends progressively take over, not in the congregations, but in
the leadership.  They become imposed
through the will-to-power concealed in pleasant expressions like
“differentiated consensus” upon the everyday Christian through the exercise of
ecclesial dominion.  Gentle sounding
phrases become the weapons of a politics of exclusion that dominate liberal
churches. The exercise of this concealed will-to-power
has crept like an assassin from church to church leaving many spiritual corpses
in its wake. It is even, through
financial enticements (a pleasantry I substitute for the term “bribe”), being
marketed to Southern churches. This is at least true in Africa where it is not
uncommon for money to be connected to the implementation of the liberal agenda.

But no more. Now is the time to say “No!” to this
development. This occupation and domination
of churches has hurt enough people.  The
intellectual and theological dishonesty concealed by this doublespeak must
end. Call a thing what it is!

Let’s be, and remain, a strong, vibrant confessing movement that speaks up clearly and consistently for traditional, genuine Lutheranism: reaching out boldly and broadly with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, in mission to the world, wherever God gives us the opportunity. Let’s focus on taking the Gospel of Christ, as it is so clearly and beautifully articulated in our Lutheran Confessions, to any and all wherever we can, supporting and helping those churches that also wish to be and remain genuinely Lutheran. The Lutheran Confessions, as contained in the Book of Concord, are what allow us to say clearly  what it is that we believe, teach and confess, and what we reject and condemn. May God grant it, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Here is the ENI report on the Tanzanian bishop’s remarks to the recent LWF gathering.

Bishop tells Lutherans how Tanzanians denounce homosexuality
27 June 2008
Peter Kenny

Arusha, Tanzania (ENI). The host bishop at a global Lutheran conference in Tanzania raised the thorny issue of homosexuality when in his opening sermon at a meeting in Arusha of the main governing body of the 68-million-strong Lutheran World Federation, he said same- sex relationships are unacceptable and go against biblical teachings.

“What is the witnessing and the stand of the LWF at the moment as [far as] the whole question of homosexuality and lesbianism is concerned,” asked Lutheran Bishop Thomas O. Laiser, from the Arusha region, at the 25 June opening service of the LWF Council. “It is an undeniable fact that this question is not even discussible, and therefore it is not acceptable,” he said.

The LWF president, Mark Hanson, who is the presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, said he believed the Lutheran body has mechanisms to adequately deal with debate and divergent attitudes on the issues of human sexuality. “There are some people who would love to see us fall apart on this issue,” he added.

Although Lutheran churches throughout the world hold different views about matters such as the acceptance of homosexuals in church life, and blessings for single sex relationships in some Northern countries, it has managed to avoid the type of divisions that are faced by the worldwide Anglican Communion over the issues.

Tanzanians, some of them in traditional Masai dress, danced and sang during the two-hour service, which officially opened the 25-30 June gathering of the LWF Council. The meeting is being held in Arusha, near the foot of Africa’s highest mountain, and with the theme, “Melting Snow on Mount Kilimanjaro: A Witness of a Suffering Creation”.

Bishop Laiser, who is himself from the Masai, a distinctive pastoralist tribe in East Africa, said, “I am not standing here to tell you how this matter should be in your respective churches and countries, I am only sharing with you a piece of information on our stand in the ELCT [Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania], your host.”

The Tanzanian bishop said that homosexuality, “violates all the principles of what we know about the teachings of the word of God.” He referred to St Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 6:9), saying, “No sexual perverts will inherit the kingdom of God.”

Bishop Laiser, who studied for a master’s degree in theology at Wartburg Seminary in the United States, stated, “This matter does not only violate the teachings of the Bible, but it is also against the principles of nature.”

Read more…

Categories: Lutheranism

Doctrine/Mission Revisited

July 3rd, 2008 5 comments

I’ve had a number of interesting responses to the Doctrine/Mission post, and I’d thought I’d share one particularly thought-provoking one. Your thoughts?

secular philosophy, separating doctrine/practice or doctrine/mission is
known as a certain logical fallacy called, ‘The Analytic/Synthetic
Dichotomy’.  When such dissonance arises, conflict arises and the
wheels come off… usually resulting in demise of whomever suffers from
the other hand, Sasse points out that nature demands consistency and
cognitive dissonance is not long tolerated.  Hence, doctrine will
eventually morph to accommodate the practice; otherwise, the crack-up
occurs.  You’ll find this an element in the Abilene Paradox.
Scripture doctrine is not simply
noetic, an ordered set of Biblical precepts – static, intransitive, but
impelling action – dynamic, transitive.  The more inner focus on
doctrine the more external mission oriented we become! [Granted, one
can become bogged down in Pharisaical niggling, but that's a straw man
most of the time.]  Hence, mission serves as feedback to the doctrine…
by their works you shall know them. In fact, one could assert the fellowship of sacred things, that is Word & Sacrament, is midwife to creation
ex nihilo.  Promulgated
doctrine impels actions establishing the foundation upon which the Holy
Spirit may bestow faith . . . creating something that never existed
before. If the practice is bad, the doctrine is materially bad, regardless what’s formally on the books.


Categories: Christian Life

Interview on the new Bo Giertz Devotional “To Live With Christ”

July 3rd, 2008 Comments off

I think you will enjoy hearing more about Bo Giertz and the new translation of his wonderful devotions for every day of the church year. Click here to listen to the interview on the KFUO Afternoon Show.

Categories: Books

Great Conversation about the Historicity of Christianity

July 3rd, 2008 Comments off

Check out this great interview with Dr. Paul Maier, the Second Vice-President of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, on the historicity of Christianity. The link takes you directly to the interview on the Issues, Etc. web site, or as one wag put it recently, “Issues, Reissued.”

The Visitation

July 1st, 2008 1 comment

Pastor Weedon has one of the best Lutheran pastor blogs out there. Why? Because he, unlike some others of us, tends simply to offer great quotes, and thereby, teaches us and preaches to us all through them. Here is his post on the Visitation.

Tomorrow those of us following the historic one-year lectionary will observe the
Feast of the Visitation (which is counted among us as one of the
“principle feasts of Christ”).* The collect for this day in Lutheran Service Book has its
origins in the earliest German Church order, the vernacular Mass of
Theobald Schwartz in Strasbourg (1524 – see Reed, p. 562). Is there any
collect whose central petition goes so to the heart of what our faith
is all about? “Grant that we may receive Your Word in humility and
faith, and so be made one with Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord.” To be
made one with Christ through the reception of God’s Word (both audible
and visible).

As that day the Blessed Virgin entered the house
of Elizabeth, with the Eternal Word’s heart beating beneath her own
heart in her blessed womb; as Elizabeth filled with the Holy Spirit
cried out “Blessed is she who believed!”; as St. John the Baptist leaps
in confession of Him whom he will serve as forerunner; as old Zechariah
silently laughs in a corner at the ways of the God of Israel; so do we
on the holy day of the Visitation rejoice that our God has visited us
indeed. That He has taken on our flesh from the most holy Virgin. That
He has come to us who could not reach Him in order that we might become
one with Him, and find in Him the life that never ends.

*McCain note: I’m reading a fascinating book that documents how Lutherans struggled against the Reformed in 16th and 17th century Brandenburg. These historic feasts associated with Mary were preserved and celebrated to counter-act what can only be described as a gnosticizing tendency among the Reformed.