Archive

Archive for December, 2008

An Open Letter and Fraternal Appeal to Lutheran Pastors Who Blog

December 15th, 2008 Comments off

Letteromonitor50
December 15, 2008

Dear Fellow Blogging Lutheran Pastors,

I
read a lot of Lutheran blog sites. I particularly enjoy reading the
blogs of Lutheran pastors, like yours. You teach me a lot and I learn a
lot, from all of you. I always welcome your fraternal admonishment and
correction where you believe I am in error or where I can improve what
I'm saying.

It is in this spirit of mutual consolation and
conversation of the brethren that I feel a need to offer this open
letter and fraternal appeal.

It is of great concern to me that
there are some of you who are using your blog sites to engage in what I
would term "pious speculating."

Let me cite but one recent
example: there is a conversation going on among a group of Lutheran
pastors that are interested in preserving the historical liturgy, to
the effect that because John the Baptist's birth is observed on the
Christian calendar, this might allow a person to believe that John the
Baptist was freed from original sin on this side of glory. Obviously,
this is theological error, but the speculation is being indulged in on
a Lutheran pastors' blog site and actually being encouraged. That's but
one example.

Here then, dear colleagues, is the problem with all
this "pious speculation", and I do wish and pray you would take this to
heart. We are not in our seminary dorm rooms, or frat houses, but
rather making comments on public blog sites. Therefore, it would be my
fraternal and respectful advice that the "pious speculations" — which,
of course, in this case, are simply errors in doctrine, plainly and
simply, be avoided.

Since the blogosphere is a public square and people actually form
opinions about Lutherans from what they read, we who are pledged to
Scripture and Confessions are not to be indulging in whims, fancies,
and "pious speculations," enjoyable as it all may be when together with friends sharing a beer or two.

We
are not liturgical or theological hobbyists, or theorists analyzing
some body of assorted data. We should not be engaging in conversation
that is more along the lines of interesting pastime, and unfounded
musing for musing's sake. Rather, our blogging must conform itself to
the pattern of sound words as it is provided for us in Scripture and as
we confess it together in the Lutheran Confessions.

St. Paul
admonishes us, in 2 Tim. 1:13: "Retain the standard of sound words
which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ
Jesus."

And our Lutheran Confessions, reflecting this Apostolic
instruction, wisely note: "It is safe to hold fast both to “the pattern
of the sound words” and to the pure doctrine itself. In this way, much
unnecessary wrangling may be cut off and the Church preserved from many
scandals." (FC SD IV.36).

Dear brothers, indulging in theorizing
and speculating over matters about which Scripture and the Confessions
are silent, or unclear, is unhelpful and potentially very harmful to
the Church. What we might share in a private gathering of pastors,
where we can be admonished, corrected, or counseled, privately among
our peers, should not be put on public display on our blog sites. And
we surely, none of us, would want to put ourselves in the position of
speaking falsely and stirring up unnecessary wrangling and causing
scandals.

Thank you for your efforts in the Lutheran blogosphere.
And thank you for hearing me out as I express this word of concern and
make this fraternal appeal to you. Verbum sapienti satis est.

Your fellow bond-servant of Christ,

Paul

Categories: Blogging

Only One Kind of Christian: Luther on Equality and Vocation in Life

December 12th, 2008 Comments off

Equality
"It must be maintained that faith or being a Christian is quite distinct from its fruit, as I have often said. So far as being a Christian and bearing the Christian name is concerned, one is no different from the other; everyone has an identical treasure and the identical possessions. The Baptism of St. Peter is no different or better than that of St. Paul, and the Baptism of a child born yesterday is no less a Baptism than that of St. John the Baptist or St. Peter and all the apostles. Nor do they have any different or better Christ than the most insignificant Christian.

"Now, from this perspective, no merit or distinction means a thing. The most insignificant Christian receives the same body and blood of Christ in the Sacrament; and when he listens to the Gospel, he is listening to the same Word of God that Peter and Paul listened to and preached. Similarly, no saint can pray a different Our Father or a better one, or confess a different Creed, or recite a different Decalog from what is my daily prayer and every child’s. This is so obvious that anyone can understand and comprehend it. In that which entitles us to the name “Christian” there is no inequality or discrimination among persons, but one is like the next—man or woman, young or old, learned or unlearned, noble or ignoble, prince or peasant, master or servant, major or minor saint. There is only one kind of Christ and one kind of faith. The sun in the heavens is the same toward everyone. It shines on a peasant as well as on a king, on a blind man as well as on a man with sharp vision, on a sow in the street as well as on the loveliest woman on earth. It shines on a thorn no less than on a rose, on a clod no less than on a purple robe. The same sun shines on the poorest beggar and on the greatest king or emperor.

"But it is in the outward sphere and in our activity that the inequalities and the various distinctions among Christians appear—not as Christians nor as to what makes them Christians, but as to the fruit. I am a baptized Christian, but over and above this I am also a preacher, though I could be a Christian without that. As a preacher I am the kind of Christian that is supposed to present the Word to the people, to console the sorrowful, and to instruct the erring and ignorant. Another person is the head of a household or a manual laborer, who is supposed to govern his household, take care of his work, and support his wife and children. Such a man is quite different from you and me, and yet I have to say: “He is just as much of a Christian, and he has as much of Baptism, the grace of God, and eternal life as I and everyone else. In Christ he is no less significant than I, and here there is no distinction between women and men.” A woman’s task is different from a man’s, a servant’s from a master’s, a preacher’s from an ordinary citizen’s, a child’s from a father’s, a pupil’s or disciple’s from a teacher’s. Everyone of them has his own task or fruit. So throughout the outward sphere there are differences, while in the inward sphere they are all Christians and identical. There is only one Christian estate and only one natural condition of all men."

Source:
Martin Luther
Sermons on The Sermon on the Mount, 1532
American Edition
Volume 21
Page 285

Categories: Martin Luther Quotes

Happiness is a Warm Puppy

December 11th, 2008 1 comment

14630

Categories: Uncategorized

Hail Mary, Blessed is the Fruit of Her Womb

December 9th, 2008 Comments off

Mary
Pastor Weedon posted this sermon he is presenting to his congregation during an upcoming Advent Vespers, and I thought you would enjoy reading it here.

Funny how modern-day Lutherans start to squirm a bit with too much Mary going on. St. Elizabeth must not have been a modern day Lutheran, for she is overjoyed when the Mother of God enters her house. At the very sound of the Blessed Virgin’s voice, the child in old Elizabeth’s womb, St. John the Baptist, does a somersault of joy. Thus, even before he is born, he is announcing the arrival of the King and testifying to the little heart that was already beating beneath Mary’s own. The heart of a Child who is truly God.

Elizabeth teaches us to understand the blessedness of Mary. St. Luke is clear that St. Elizabeth spoke by the Holy Spirit. So these are not just words of some long ago saint, but they are words prompted by the Holy Spirit himself and so words given us to treasure, to which we do well to give great heed.

First, she announces: “Blessed are you among women.” Blessed indeed, for never again and never before would there be a woman who became a mother and remained a virgin. The type that Isaiah had foretold had a bigger fulfillment than anyone could ever imagine. A virgin conceives and bears a Son. The hymns of Advent and of Christmas never cease to invite us to marvel over God’s chosen way of coming to rescue us. “Here a maid was found with child, Yet remained a virgin mild. In her womb this truth was shown: God was there upon His throne.” (LSB 332:3) “Thou cam’st the Bridegroom of the bride, As drew the world to eventide, The spotless Victim all divine, Proceeding from a virgin shrine. “ (LSB 351:3) “Of her Emmanuel the Christ was born, in Bethlehem, all on a Christmas morn. And Christian folk throughout the world will ever say: Most highly favored lady, Gloria!” (LSB 356) Only in Mary do virgin and mother unite. Blessed among women.

But there’s more, and so St. Elizabeth cries out: “Blessed is the fruit of Your womb.” Do you get that one? The One promised so long ago to Abraham to bring blessing to all the peoples of the earth. The Blessed One is in Mary’s womb. The One who comes in the name of the Lord. The Blessed One is in Mary’s womb. She is the living Ark of God! For it is the Eternal Word of the Father who is growing day by day in her swelling womb. The heavens and the heavens of heavens cannot contain Him, and yet in love for us, He deigns to take up residence in Mary’s body so that she could give Him the flesh and blood by which He would bring blessing to all – by suffering and dying in that flesh to destroy death, to wipe out sin, to raise it from death incorruptible and to seat that flesh and blood that came from Mary at the right hand of the throne of God as the firstfruits – for we shall surely follow. This is the blessing – to raise humanity to what God intended for us from the beginning – that we might be His children, His heirs, sharing a life that never ends. Blessed indeed is the fruit of Mary’s womb, our Lord Jesus.

But St. Elizabeth is not done. There’s more. John the Baptist in her womb confessing the advent of his Lord no doubt put her in mind of it. I always picture St. Elizabeth cutting her eyes at old Zechariah sitting silent in the corner, but with eyes sparkling, as she pronounces the last blessing upon Mary: “Blessed is she who believed.” Unspoken, then, the words: “Unlike you, you old goat! See how silly you were? This maiden’s faith has shamed you.” And I don’t doubt for a second that old Zechariah was laughing silently right along with the two ladies. When Dr. Luther reflected on St. Elizabeth’s words, he opined that perhaps it was the last blessing that is the most amazing. That Mary should believe it. That she should receive such a shocking and incredible promise from God and say to it her great fiat: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. Let it be to me according to Your Word.” A miracle that a virgin should conceive. A miracle that the Child she bears is the Eternal Son destined for an Eternal Kingdom. But Luther thought perhaps the greatest miracle of the incarnation is that Mary believed it, said yes to it, gave space and time in her life to the God who begged entrance so that He might bring blessing to a world gone wrong.

People loved by God, do you see? The Holy Spirit doesn’t set Mary before you tonight for you to worship, for you to pray to and seek favor from. That would horrify her in the extreme. She is set before you for you to love. For as you love her Son, her flesh and blood, you cannot but help joining with St. Elizabeth in calling Mary blessed. Indeed, inspired by the same Spirit, the Mother of God would cry out: “From now on all generations will call me blessed.” Don’t worship her or pray to her, but do learn to love her. There is no need to fear her. She’s not in competition with her Son. But she is His mother.

Look at all the artwork of the Church from early years and you’ll see that they got it right. Invariably she holds forth her hand to her Son and directs all your attention from her to Him who made her blessed. Of all the gifts our Jesus gives us, we must not forget to bless and thank Him for His mother, and to ask that our faith might come to be like hers – a blessed faith that says “Yes, enter in” when God knocks.

Let us stand now and join the Mother of God in her hymn of praise, the Magnificat – for surely as He has done great things for her, so He has also done great things for us. And holy is His name. Amen.

Honoring the Blessed Virgin Mary

December 8th, 2008 Comments off

519
Today when many Christians remember Mary by thinking of an incorrect doctrine, the view that she was conceived without sin, we do well to properly honor the Mother of Our Lord, the Mother of God, the God-Bearer [all perfectly good titles for Mary], by recalling her example of faith and virtue, and by praising and thanking God for His work through her. That is how we best honor all Christians who have gone before us. Here then is a nice devotion written some years ago.

"Hail, O favored one, the Lord is with you!"

       (Luke 1:28 RSV)

Some Christians are almost afraid to honor Mary. Because some of their
brothers and sisters have gone overboard in giving attention to Jesus’
mother, they lean over backward and shy away from any show of respect
to the one who was chosen from all other women to bring our Savior into
the world.

We
don’t have to be afraid to admire or look up to Mary. After all, God
singled her out for a signal honor. She occupies a unique position
among all women. She is mentioned in both the Apostles’ Creed and the
Nicene Creed.

Even so, hers is a derived glory. Her fame depends
on the child she bore. We call her "blessed," not because she was
sinless but because her Son was sinless; not because of what she did
for God but because of what God did for her.

The Virgin Mother
carried the flesh of God’s Son near her heart. That privilege will
never be duplicated. Yet the same Christ wants to dwell in our hearts
through faith.

What God is doing for us is not the same as what
He did for Mary. Yet all saints on earth and those in heaven can truly
say: "The LORD has done great things for us; we are glad" (Psalm
126:3).


Lord, we join Mary in magnifying You. Amen.

Author: Bertwin L. Frey/Feb. 13, 1972

The Law: Fast Bound in Satan’s Chains

December 7th, 2008 Comments off

Moses_ten_commandments

New post on the Law at the Book of Concord blog.
Categories: Lutheran Confessions

Irrigating Deserts — Lewis on Great Literature

December 7th, 2008 1 comment

Lewis
"Literature adds to reality, it does
not simply describe it. It enriches the necessary competencies that
daily life requires and provides; and in this respect, it irrigates the
deserts that our lives have already become.  In reading great
literature I become a thousand men and yet remain myself. Like the
night sky in the Greek poem, I see with a myriad eyes, but it is still
I who see. Here, as in worship, in love, in moral action, and in
knowing, I transcend myself; and am never more myself than when I do.”

— C.S. Lewis

Categories: Books

Logos for Mac is Here

December 6th, 2008 3 comments

Mac-boxes-small
Click on the photo to see a video demo

Click on the photo

Categories: Macintosh

Real Men Wear Sweater Vests

December 6th, 2008 14 comments

McCain
Yup, this is me, in my office at Concordia Publishing House. I love colder weather because I get to wear sweater vests! Apparently several of the women in my life think sweater vests are kind of dorky. That's ok, I can live with that.

The huge crucifix that hangs on my wall is a gift from the family of President Alvin Barry. At his death, they offered me the crucifix that always hung in his offices, while he was a pastor, mission executive, district executive, district president and then Synodical President. It was a gift to him from one of his first congregations. He had found it up in the church attic, unused. It had been painted white and he carefully removed the paint and restored the wood to its original condition, and then the congregation had it mounted on a cross and put into the large shadow box you see in the photo, and gave it to him as a gift. The crucifix was brought with founding members of the congregation, from Germany, when they came to the USA in the 19th century. The paintings next to it are the Cranach Weimar altar painting, and below it Hook's Christ with the Children.

Categories: Uncategorized

Advent 101

December 5th, 2008 Comments off

Thanks to Pastor William Cwirla for this overview of Advent.

Categories: Uncategorized

Thoughts on the Suicide of a Friend

December 2nd, 2008 16 comments

I heard this morning from a friend, that a mutual friend, and seminary classmate of ours, took his own life last night at around nine in the evening.

Let us not think for a moment that we are not in a real life/death struggle, a war that has no end, until the day the Lord takes us to be with Him. It is a war that has real victims. As I was praying Matins from the Treasury the other day, the assigned reading from the Lutheran Confessions was from Luther's Large Catechism, the Longer Preface: "Catechism study is a most effective help against the devil, the world, the flesh, and all evil thoughts. It helps to be occupied with God's Word, to speakt it, and to meditate on it, just as the first Psalm declares people blessed who meditate on God's Law, day and night (Psalm 1:2)." Let us take warning and take heed from such a tragic incident and devote ourselves all the more to being deeply in the Word, and cling all the more to the mercy and grace of God.

What then are we to say in response to such tragic news? My friend wrote us all this note, which I'll share here, removing any identifying names:

I just received a call from Pastor (name withheld)'s family, informing me that name died last night around. 9pm.  Itt was self inflicted.   Please be assured that our brother is with the Lord.  He suffered with depression for many years and we talked of this often.  He had a deep faith.  For those of you who knew him, you know he believed and confessed the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ with a wonderful clarity throughout his ministry.  He encouraged so many in his Church, and me often in private conversation.  Unfortunately, the spiritual battle we encounter is real and the devil looks for opportunity to take advantage of us when we are weak.  None of us are exempt from stumbling.  And yet…

" …in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:37ff). Please keep his family (wife and four children) and Name Lutheran Church in your prayers." End of letter.

I remembered Martin Luther's wise words when asked about the state of those who commit suicide. It is a shame these wise words were not kept in mind during the history of our church. At my first parish, there was a corner of the parish cemetery where suicides were buried, in unmarked graves, the view being quite a legalistic view of the situation, that a person who kills himself has no chance to confess sin and receive absolution and therefore is lost. Luther rather wisely points to the power and influence of Satan and how we must be on our guard and realize that there are those times when Satan will take one of us captive and overcome us on the road of life.

Here is what Luther said:

“I don’t share the opinion that suicides are certainly to be damned. My reason is that they do not wish to kill themselves but are overcome by the power of the devil. They are like a man who is murdered in the woods by a robber. . . . They are examples by which our Lord God wishes to show that the devil is powerful and also that we should be diligent in prayer. But for these examples, we would not fear God. Hence he must teach us in this way.” [Vol. 54:29].

Finally, if you know a pastor who is struggling, be sure to reach out to encourage him and support him. Don't sit around thinking, "Oh, somebody else is going to say something." No, you say something. Do something. Reach out in Christian love. If a congregation is aware that the pastor is suffering, don't wait, help.

Categories: Christian Life

If you don’t believe me, listen to Weedon

December 1st, 2008 4 comments

"CPH received massive orders for the TDP today; there is a distinct
possibility that folks who are holding off for nearer to Christmas may
be out of luck. If your church has a list still waiting to get in, do
so a.s.a.p., and likewise for any individual orders. What a blessed
problem to be running into so soon after the first printing!"

— Pastor William Weedon, aka, "The Venerable Weed"

Place your congregational orders, ASAP, folks, or you will not get the book in time for Christmas. I feel it in my bones.

Call 800-325-3040
Or place the order on the Internet: www.cph.org/prayer

Categories: CPH Resources