Archive for November, 2009

A Fun Christmas? Not This Year!

November 12th, 2009 5 comments

grinch_santaThink very long, and very hard, about the following headline used for a story published by a Christian retailing association, reporting a survey by a consumer specialist, predicting that sales will be lower this Christmas:

Survey warns that Christmas “Won’t Be Fun” This Year.

Can you think of a better example of just about everything wrong with our culture’s view of Christmas, and, sadly, the view of too many in the Church as well? In light of the Incarnation, can any Christmas celebration, when celebrated in the grace of the gifts Christ gives, not be “fun” [that word properly understood, of course!].

Every Day is A Bonus: A Beautiful Tribute to the Veterans

November 11th, 2009 2 comments

Categories: Uncategorized

Thank You Veterans, God Bless!

November 11th, 2009 1 comment


The occasion of this photograph was a Veterans Day Commemoration at Dallas City Hall on 11 November 2004. The Veteran pictured is Houston James, a survivor of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, and the Marine is Staff Sgt. Mark Graunke Jr., a member of an ordnance-disposal team who lost his left hand, one leg and an eye while defusing a bomb in Iraq in July 2003.


Categories: Uncategorized

Aspiring Future Pastors: Here is How You Preach a Funeral Sermon

November 9th, 2009 5 comments

I’ve heard it said over the years that “Lutherans do not give eulogies” at funerals. Baloney! Of course they do, but it is how they do it that sets apart a genuine Christian funeral sermon from one of those syrupy-sweat, empty eulogies the world is used to, and desires and craves. Here’s a post for seminarians reading this blog site. You want to learn how to preach a funeral sermon? Just read Pastor Weedon’s funeral sermons. Tremendous. Keep in mind Pastor Weedon knows very well the person about whom he is preaching in sermons like this. He has been their father in Christ for many years. He knows his sheep, and knows Whose voice his sheep have heard through the years. He would be the first to tell you that you would never want to preach with such assurance of a person’s salvation unless you, as a pastor, were clear in you own mind about their public confession. So, enjoy this sermon. Do yourself and your future hearers a favor: do not turn a funeral sermon into an abstract dissertation on the doctrine of death, or heaven, or otherwise. Preach to the hurting hearts, and point those hearts to the Healing Physician, Christ Jesus, the Crucified and Risen One, the One who conquered death, for us, by His death, and wins life, for us, through His life. If they are not teaching you to preach this way at funerals, then I suggest you learn from faithful pastors like Pastor Weedon.Why? Because he knows how to preach a deeply personal, practical, meaningful, Christ-centered sermon at the death of one of the Lord’s saints. And you can, and will, by God’s grace, do the same thing!

[Job 19:23-27; Romans 8:31-39; Matthew 6:7-15]

Dear Clara, Donna and Robert, Joyce and Daniel, Lynn, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, family and friends of Roy Henkhaus, there are ultimately only two paths in life. Either you live your life praying: “Thy will be done” and so know the peace of God or you live your life praying: “My will be done” and so in constant fretting and anxiety. I do not need to tell you which way Roy lived, do I? His rather unshakable calm witnesses all by itself to the path he pursued.

His godly parents set him upon that path on the day when he was baptized at the ripe age of 12 days old. His parents brought him to old St. Paul’s and the water was poured over him in der namen des Vaters und des Sohns und des Heiligen Geistes. Amen! That day he was born anew into God’s family, his sins forgiven for his whole life long, the promise of eternal life given to him, and he was put on the path of those who learn to deny their own wills and to pray that God’s good and gracious will be done in their lives, in the lives of their family and friends, and of this world.

He walked that path through many joys and many sorrows. Of the joys, certainly of the brightest for him was that amazing Clara Lienemann agreed to go with him on that first date – and ever after he was happy to show his lucky $2 bill and share the story. It was always in his wallet – one of the most romantic gestures I could imagine. He rejoiced that in praying for God’s will to be done, God provided him with a wife and companion to walk the way and share with him all the ups and down. And well did the vacancy pastor here at St. Paul at the time of your marriage, Clara, remind you both of the Our Father and teach you that this prayer would guide your marriage in the ways of the Lord, so that together you learned to deny your own wills and to pray for God’s good and gracious will to be done – even when you pray that prayer with tears.

And tears there were a plenty. The tragic and sad loss of brother Allen and later of Harry and Earl; the unspeakable sadness of Terry’s untimely death; the horrific thanksgiving morning when news came of Jennifer’s accident. The sorrows mount in this life, and you either face them with praying “Thy will be done” and so finally come to peace, or you lose all peace as you rage that your will wasn’t done, that your plans were shattered, your hopes and dreams destroyed. Roy walked the way of peace. It wasn’t about his plans or dreams; it was about the Lord’s will and purposes.

But it wasn’t all sorrow – the Lord’s ways never are. There was also joy unspeakable. For Roy, YOU were his unspeakable joy – his wife, his children and grandchildren and great grandchildren -each of you he counted an undeserved and wondrous blessing from God. And so the peace that you could see on his face – even when his face had streams of tears running down it. In the end, his tears were for you, for he hated to leave you, but he knew that it wasn’t a forever farewell. It was only “till we see each other again.”

You see, he knew what old Job confessed. That we have a Redeemer. That in the end He WILL stand again upon this earth. That though our flesh is destroyed, yet in that flesh we shall see God whom our very eyes shall behold and not another. It’s a day when all that has been wrong is set right. To believe and hope for that day and its arrival is live in peace – and when a child of God prays: “Thy will be done” as in the Lord’s Prayer he is praying to see that day of Resurrection.

But there is another factor in walking that way, and that is remembering that there is nothing, absolutely nothing you will ever face in this world that can deprive you of the love God has shown you in Jesus Christ. No one, I don’t believe, can come to pray “thy will be done” until they’ve realized that no matter how painful the crosses the Lord may see fit to send us, they all come from One who loves us more deeply than words can ever begin to tell, a God who is determined that the life we’ve tasted in His Son is a life we shall never lose, a God whose ultimate will for us is that we share His own eternal blessedness.

It was in the confidence of that love that Roy could and did pray the Our Father and it is in the confidence of that love that he was granted the fullness of what he prayed for his whole life from that moment when the pastor laid hands on him and prayed Vater unser der du bist im Hmmel until that moment when his eyes were closed to this age and he saw God’s kingdom – all the saints and the angels, his brothers, his son, his granddaughter, his parents – all the saints gathered around the throne, and all praising the holy name and asking that God’s good, gracious and perfect will continue to be done on earth as they taste it even now in heaven. The moment when he was at last delivered finally from all the evils of this age, and now he waits with them the even greater glory of resurrection morning.

But for you who still are on pilgrimage, from whose eyes the tears have not yet been wiped away, how better can you honor and remember your Roy than by becoming one with him in his praying the Our Father, especially asking that God’s will be done in your life, not your own will, not your own plans, not your own ways, but His will and His will alone, the will of Him who has loved you in His Son with an everlasting love and promised you through His Son’s death on your behalf a share in that life which death will never be able to take from you? Amen.

Roy H. Henkhaus, age 85, of Hamel, died at 9:25 p.m., on Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2009, at Hitz Memorial Home in Alhambra. He was born on May 27, 1924, in Alhambra, the son of the late Edward E. and Sophie A. Henke Henkhaus. He married Clara L. Lienemann on May 2, 1948, at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Hamel. She survives.

Along with his wife, he is survived by two daughters: Donna K. and husband Robert Zerrusen of Vandalia and Joyce A. and husband Daniel Newby of Glen Carbon; daughter-in-law: Lynn Henkhaus of Edwardsville; grandchildren: Eric and wife Tonya Rodgers, Todd and wife Dena Willeford, Daisy and husband Greg Zykan, Angela Henkhaus, Megan Newby and Brooks Newby; great grandchildren: Madalyn Rodgers, Parker Rodgers, Gage Zykan, Luke Zykan and Hayden Willeford; a brother: Ted and wife Velma Henkhaus of Alhambra; sister: Ruth Kelley of Alhambra; and sisters-in-law: Irma Henkhaus of Hamel and Verna Henkhaus of Staunton.

Along with his parents, he is preceded in death by a son: Terry Lee Henkhaus, who preceded on Aug. 24, 1985; brothers: Earl Henkhaus, Harry Henkhaus, who preceded April, 1987, and Allen Henkhaus, who preceded in 1948; brother-in-law: Samuel Kelley; and grandchild: Jennifer Willeford, who preceded on Nov., 1993.

Roy was born in Alhambra Township on the family farm. He attended West School, St. Paul Lutheran School and Suhre School. He worked as a farm hand and entered the U.S. Army from 1946-1947. After his service he worked at US Radiator in Edwardsville and then drove a truck in St. Louis for American Car and Foundry. He became a full-time farmer and retired in 1992, selling the farm and equipment and moving into Hamel. His memberships include St. Paul Lutheran Church in Hamel, former member of the Madison County Farm Bureau and Farm Bureau Senior Club.

Categories: Sermons

If I Could Have Different Flags for Comments….

November 8th, 2009 Comments off

I really enjoyed this post over at the Read, Write, Web blog site. As one who has been blogging and moderating blogs for well over ten years now, I can surely identify with the wish to have proper “flags” by which to mark comments. Here then is a “wish list” for little symbols moderators would love to have at the ready to mark incoming comments. Kudos to RobCottingham for this.


Categories: Blogging

Why Do We Make the Sign of the Cross

November 7th, 2009 4 comments

Sign-of-the-cross-fingers-positionAs a boy growing up in the “Heart of Dixie” way down in the Deep South, we Lutherans knew we were not Baptists, that’s for sure, and they never let us forget it either. After all, we drank, they did not. And we sure knew we were not Roman Catholics! Of that we were sure, but most of our fellow protestants were not. We baptized babies, they did not. As one Baptist lady put it to me once, “Oh, you are a Lutheran? That’s just like being Roman Catholic, except you only have two sacraments and your priests can get married, right?”

On the other hand, the deeply anti-Roman feelings in LCMS Lutheranism  led me to believe that anyone who chanted the liturgy was a bit “Romish” and surely, the “dead give away” somebody was Roman Catholic was when they made the sign of the cross. We scoffed at such “superstitious nonsense.”

Now, can the sign of the cross be superstitious? Of course, but so can having a Bible sitting on a table never opened, and a picture of the Savior piously displayed on the wall “for good luck” or whatever. Anything good and useful can be used poorly or inappropriately. And so we have to realize that abuse does not rule out the proper use of something.

As I matured I began to study the history of the Church, and discovered way, way, way back in the earliest years of the Church, tracing the sign of the cross on oneself, most likely on the forehead, was a deeply ancient Christian practice. Then I noticed one day that a rather famous Lutheran theologian recommended making the sign of the cross when waking up in the morning, going to bed at night, and at every meal, before and after, during the day. You might know this man: Martin Luther, who indicates this is to be our practice in the Small Catechism. My eyes were slowly opened to the reality that what I often had dismissed as “Roman Catholic” was simply something Christians had been doing for millennia. The sign of the cross being one of those things. Pastor Todd Peperkorn prepared a nice short article on the sign of the cross, which I think you’ll enjoy reading. I recommend you add Pastor Peperkorn’s blog to your feed reader. His is one of so many wonderful blogs Lutheran pastors provide for our reading and edification.

Why Do We Make the Sign of the Cross

From time to time I am asked the question, “why do we make the sign of the cross? Isn’t that Catholic?” It’s a good and reasonable question, and I’m always happy to answer it.

Making the sign of the cross is catholic, but not simply in the Roman Catholic sense.  Remember that the word “catholic” with a small-c means simply “universal” or “churchwide.” It doesn’t mean necessarily “Roman” Catholic. Making the sign of the cross by Christians almost since the time of our Lord’s resurrection from the dead. It has probably been around as a Christian practice as long as folding one’s hands to pray or saying before meal prayers. So in terms of its historic practice, Christians have been making the sign of the cross as long as there have been crosses.

The purpose and symbolism behind it is pretty simple and beautiful. When you are baptized, the pastor says these words over you “Receive the sign of the + holy cross both upon your forehead and upon your heart, to mark you as one redeemed by Christ the crucified” (Rite of Holy Baptism, Lutheran Service Book, p. 268). That was a part of the Baptism rite in Lutheran Worship (1982), as well as the “old” hymnal, The Lutheran Hymnal (1941). So the pastor literally makes the sign of the cross over the newly baptized, because in baptism we put on Christ, are buried with Him in His death, and we now bear His holy name.

When we make the sign of the cross, what we are doing is A) remembering our Baptism; B) Remembering Jesus’ death for our sins; C) Confessing to the world that I am not ashamed to be known as a disciple of Jesus; and D) Holding up the cross of Christ as the central core of my identity.

Martin Luther thought this practice so important that he included it in the Small Catechism. Making the sign of the cross is included as a part of both the morning and evening prayers.

So how do you make the sign of the cross? You put your thumb, index and middle finger on your right hand together (the Holy Trinity) and begin at your forehead. You then make a line with your hand from your forehead to the middle of your chest. You then raise your hand parallel with your sternum, and make the “cross” part from going from the left breast to the right.

Must the Christian make the sign of the cross? Certainly not. This is a matter of personal freedom and piety. Christians for centuries have found it beneficial to make a physical sign of the cross, but if that is not helpful do you, don’t do it and don’t feel bad about it. At the same time, I would ask that you not judge those who do make the sign of the cross. It is a matter of freedom, both ways.

God’s richest blessings to you in Christ, as we live under His cross.

+Pastor Peperkorn+

Categories: Lutheranism

What is “Closed Communion” and Why Do Some Lutherans Practice It?

November 7th, 2009 7 comments

Communion-715280A traditional practice among conservative Lutherans is the practice of “closed communion.” This is a practice that historic Lutheranism shares in common with Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy. Simply put, it means participation in the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper is limited to those who have been instructed in the confession and belief of the Lutheran Church on the doctrine and use of the Lord’s Supper, and have given public confession and testimony of their personal agreement with these teachings.

Lutheran congregations that, as a matter of routine and policy, admit to the Supper those Christians who are communicant members of other church bodies are not practicing closed communion, but are practicing open communion. This is not a practice that is faithful to Scripture or the Lutheran Confessions, nor in line with the historic doctrine and practice of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod.

This is a “hot button” issue among many Lutherans and other Christians today. It is helpful to review what previous faithful teachers of the Lutheran Church have said about the practice of closed communion. What follows is an anthology of quotes from doctrinal literature of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod.

Comments Regarding Altar Fellowship from Doctrinal Literature of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod

C. F. W. Walther

“Anyone who does not confess the faith that the true body of Jesus Christ is truly and really present in the holy Supper and so is received by all communicants, worthy and unworthy, cannot discern the body of the Lord (1 Cor. 11:29) and so is not to be admitted to the holy Supper under any circumstances (see Gerhard, op cit., p. 222). But even one who confesses that cannot ordinarily* [Footnote to the word ordinarily: Namely, except for the case of the fatal emergency, with which we will deal later]be admitted if he is and wants to remain, not a member of our orthodox church, but rather a Separatist Romanist, Reformed so-called Evangelical or Unionist, Methodist, Baptist, in short, a member of an erring fellowship. For the Sacrament, as it is a seal of faith, is also the banner of the fellowship in which it is administered.

Mich. Mueling writes: “The holy Sacraments are symbols, watchwords, ensigns of the Christian confession of the heavenly truth, of the living faith, and of the true fellowship of the Church of Christ. So those who assent to false, erring doctrine cannot use the holy Sacraments without an evil conscience and name, indeed, without giving offense to those weak in the faith. (Dedekennus’ Thesaur. Vol. 1, p. 2, f. 364).*

Footnote: See Theses on Supper Fellowship with Those Who Believe Differently, in the Proceedings of the 1870 convention of the Western District of the Missouri Synod.

- Pastoral Theology, Drickamer translation, p. 149.

C. F. W. Walther

“The Holy Supper is one of the marks, one of the banners of the church, one of the seals of the doctrine and the faith (Rom. 4:11; see 1 Cor. 10:21; Ex. 12:48). In whichever church one receives the Holy Supper, one is confessing that church and its doctrine. There cannot be a more inward, brotherly fellowship than that into which one enters with those in whose fellowship he receives the holy Supper. The apostle says, “For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death until he come” (1 Cor. 11:26). And “For we being many, are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread” (1 Cor. 10:17).

There is a big difference between once hearing a sermon with them in a strange church fellowship and participating there in the celebration of the Holy Supper. One might sometimes hear the sermon there, perhaps to become familiar with their doctrine, without participating in the false-believing worship. But the holy Communion is an act of confession. If one communes in a strange church, one is actually joining it, presenting himself as a witness for its doctrine, and declaring its members to be his brothers and sisters in the faith.

On the basis of that understanding, what is to be thought of inviting everyone present, without distinction, to receive the holy Supper, and admitting them without examination?-It is quite natural for that to be done by preachers who do not believe that the body and blood of God’s Son is present in the holy Supper and is received by all communicants; preachers who consider the holy Supper a mere memorial meal, a mere ceremony, such as the Reformed, the Methodists, and most of the Union-Evangelicals. But it is inexcusable if those operate this way who want to be Lutheran preachers and are convinced of the truth of the Lutheran doctrine of the holy Supper.”

- Pastoral Theology, Drickamer translation, p. 110-111

C. F. W. Walther

“Every preacher has the precise instructions that God’s Word gives him about the administration of the Sacrament. It is obvious that all those with whom Christians cannot maintain any brotherly faith fellowship, should also, according to God’s Word, not be admitted to the reception of the Sacrament, by which the most inward brotherly faith fellowship is established and expressed.

What are those preachers doing who admit anyone without distinction? They are proving that they are unfaithful, frivolous stewards over God’s mysteries. They are interfering wiht God the Lord in His office and setting themselves up as lords over His holy Sacrament, when they should be its ministers. If they do not come to their senses in time, woe to them forever and eternally!”

- Pastoral Theology, Drickamer Translation, p. 114

C. F. W. Walther

“When one says there are Christians also in false-believing churches, that indeed has its measure of truth: There are Christians in them-but weak Christians, namely such as are caught in an error without knowing it. But it is hypocrisy if they are convinced of the error, remain in the sect, and yet want to be regarded as weak. They are either lukewarm or Epicurean religious cynics…

“Therefore one who says that our evangelical Lutheran doctrine and church is correct, but nevertheless remains in the false church and does not join us, burdens himself with a serious condemnation. He then knows the way of truth all right, but does not walk in it…

- Theses on Communion Fellowship with the Heterodox, Walther, Essays, I:213.

C. F. W. Walther

“The main purpose of the holy sacraments is indeed to be tools and means through which the promises of grace are offered, communicated, and appropriated, as seals, testimonies, and pledges through which these promises are sealed. However, subordinate to this main purpose, they have also this purpose: to be distinctive signs of confession and bonds of fellowship in worship. Communion fellowship is therefore church fellowship….

“All should indeed come to preaching, but only Christians who confess the proper Christian faith with their mouth should come to Communion. Therefore one who goes to Holy Communion in a Lutheran church declares openly before the world: I hold with this church, with the doctrine that is preached here, with the faith that is confessed here, and with all the confessors who belong here. The pastor who administers the Sacrament to him declares the very same thing.

“In Acts 2:42, 46 and 20:7 the Holy Spirit points out with praise how the Christians in Jerusalem and at Troas in Asia Minor showed their oneness in faith and their brotherhood in the breaking of bread, i. e., in the celebration of Holy Communion. Now then, if heterodox Christians come to our Communion with our knowledge, then they and we are hypocrites. They appear to be Lutherans, but they are not….

“As necessary and important as it therefore is to testify above all over against the Reformed and union churches [Walther's term describing the General Synod and General Council Lutherans] that the sacraments are true means of grace and pledges for our faith, yet the time has now also come when we must confess over against the unionistic Lutherans that the sacraments are also marks and bonds of worship [fellowship] and of fraternal fellowship in faith….

“A Communicant becomes a preacher in that, as I said, where he communes he declares his allegiance as to the true church. The spokesmen of the Church Council [General Council] themselves also admit that Baptism and Holy Communion are distinguishing marks of the orthodox church. It is therefore so much the more grievous and a lie in the name of God when they impress the seal of orthodoxy on those who believe differently by receiving them to Holy Communion. In an attempt to justify themselves they in return accuse us now again of excommunicating and banning, as it were, those heterodox Christians whom we refuse altar fellowship with us. But this charge is thoroughly false. We have often said, and we say it again, that there are still true Christians also in heterodox churches. But they stand under a false banner and sign. Now, we cannot and will not give them the true spiritual banner until they also with us declare allegiance to it.

“Our opponents indeed object that the Sacrament, and even the mutilated Sacrament of the sects, is a distinctive mark of confession of Christianity…But this too is wrong. For is the sacraments are marks of confession, as they are, then they are marks of pure confession.

- Theses on Communion Fellowship, idem, p. 215-217.

C. F. W. Walther

“I consider it absolutely correct not to continue forever to admit those people to Communion who live in the parish but do not want to join the congregation. I would admit them only for a limited time. This is a different matter than joining a synod. The latter is of human law, the former by divine law. Participation in Communion sponsored by the congregation is indeed the highest privilege of a member and is participation in the innermost fellowship with the congregation, yet is not actual joining. To this belongs, also according to the Word of God, the actual affiliation with the congregation in its function as the higher tribunal (Matthew 18:15-18), as well as participation in its meetings and not only those in which the Word of God is proclaimed through the public ministry, but also the mutual admonition, observance, and provocation to love and good works (Hebrews 10:24-25). God obviously will not only the invisible but also the visible church, as Baptism and the Lord’s Supper already show. He wills not an unregulated, random, occasional gathering together, but rather regulated congregations with church tribunals. Whoever does not want anything to do with these latter things, sets himself against God’s clear will, or if he only wants to use these benefits but without participating in the work, he is a self-seeking individual who, spiritually speaking, reuses to eat his own bread. Others are to work for him, to provide, to contribute, to stand at the breach, ad to counsel, but he himself wants to be only an idle observer, enjoying it all without work.

One also has to consider that, in such a case, withholding Holy Communion is not something absolute, it is not declaring that such a one is unworthy, it is not a ban, but only a suspension, as is the case with one who becomes aware of the fact that his brother has something against him (Mt. 5:23-24). It is not a question of exclusion from offering a gift, but rather has to do with the necessary proceeding fulfillment of a condition for a God-pleasing offering. But in any case, the church order always ought to leave the pastor some leeway to prolong the time according to certain circumstances and certain spiritual conditions. For love must always be the empress of all church order and law, but conversely freedom may not be used as a cover for wickedness, in this case for greed, for improper conduct, and for injury inflicted on the church.”

- from Walther Selected Letters in Selected Writings of C. F. W. Walther (Concordia Publishing House, 1981), p. 124-125

C. F. W. Walther

“Our pastors accept only such people into the congregation, for attendance at Holy Communion, who believe in the Word of God and want to be Lutherans and live a Christian life. We do not have anything to do with religious syncretism and with false church union. Our pastors also will not admit anyone to Communion attendance who has not first come to them for announcement, for we will not cast holy things before dogs nor pearls before swine, which is something the Lord so earnestly forbade us. The people should not think that thereby we want to exercise lordship over them, for we detest from the heart every type of clerical authoritarianism and all popery, and on this account we have already had many a battle and suffered much. But we want to build up proper Lutheran congregations which stand on solid ground, and not merely loose aggregates of human beings which may hold together today and dissolve tomorrow.”

- Letters, ibid., p. 69.

George Stoeckhardt

Commenting on 1 Corinthians 10:16-18, Stoeckhardt wrote: “Through our participation at the Lord’s Table we express our most intimate communion with Christ. That we many are one body, eat one bread, is not meant to prove that the true and body and blood of Christ are in the Sacrament. Such a conclusion one must not draw from the “for” (hoti-v. 17) which does not refer back, but sets up a new claim. As there is but one bread, one loaf, from which we eat, so are we who are eating of this loaf one body. The eating of one and the same bread of loaf unifies us to one body. So this is a new thought: Our participation in the Lord’s Supper is a public profession on our part that we are not only in fellowship with Christ, but that we also are in fellowship with those with whom we commune at the Lord’s Table. We all eat the same bread, the body of Christ. Through that ct we indicate that we belong together. All of us Christians who in the Lord’s Supper eat the body of Christ and drink His blood present ourselves as one spiritual family. What they eat and drink together, Christ’s body and blood, ties them together more closely than the bonds of blood. They declare themselves as brothers and sisters in Christ. Upon this Bible passage do we base our ecclesiastical dictum: Altar or Communion Fellowship is Church Fellowship. …

“This passage strikes a crushing blow at unionism. To admit the heterodox to our Communion and so to our church fellowship is a contradiction in itself. For those that approach the same altar together profess to be one, one in all points of Christian doctrine and practice, while in reality they disagree. It would be shameful hypocrisy on our part if we would have those to join us at the Lord’s Altar, when they actually profess a different faith than we do.”

- Exegetical Lectures on the First Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians, Translated by H. W. Degner (Fort Wayne: Concordia Theological Seminary Print Shop, 1969), p. 60-61.

George Stoeckhardt

“A Christian congregation is an assembly of believing Christians and so presumes that those who wish to join likewise are Christians and possess a certain measure of Christian knowledge. And where that is lacking it instructs them through the pastor in Christian truth before accepting them. And a truly Lutheran congregation will not welcome into membership Reformed, United, and such like, who are totally indifferent to matters of doctrine in the hope that later on, after they have spent a little time in the Lutheran Church, they, too, will become good Lutherans. A Lutheran congregation is a fellowship of Lutheran Christians and therefore expects those who wish to join to some extent to be familiar with true doctrine and when they transfer from an unorthodox church, to take this step of inner conviction, and wherever lacking, to receive the necessary knowledge before being accepted.”

- From Potpourii, Translated by Erwin Koehlinger from Der Lutheraner 49 (Fort Wayne: Concordia Theological Seminary Press, n.d.), p. 297.

Francis Pieper

“On the one hand, they are not permitted to introduce “Open Communion”; on the other hand, they must guard against denying it to those Christians for whom Christ has appointed it… (p. 381)…To keep the pastor from denying the Lord’s Supper to those weak in Christian knowledge, or frightening timid souls away…the person registering should not be subject to rigorous examination, but be induced by way of a friendly interview to reveal the state of his Christianity and to tell what the Lord’s Supper is and why he desires to partake.” (p. 387). [This statement from Pieper has been mistakenly quoted to modify the practice of close communion in regard to members of heterodox church bodies. For Pieper clearly states in the same section in his dogmatics:]

“Furthermore, since Christians are forbidden to adhere to teachers who deviate from the Apostolic doctrine (Rom. 16:17: “Avoid them”; R. V.: “turn away from them”), it is self-evident that members of heterodox churches must have severed their connection with the heterodox body and have declared their acceptance of the true doctrine before they may commune with the congregation. Fellowship in the Lord’s Supper certainly is fellowship in the faith or church fellowship…Walther is right in holding that by practicing “Open Communion” a pastor becomes “an unfaithful, careless, and unscrupulous shepherd….The ‘admission as guests’ involves a self-contradiction. When Lutherans synods in America indeed wanted to cling to the rule, “Lutheran altars for Lutheran communicants only,” but then wanted exceptions to the rule granted, they were again making admission to the Lord’s Supper a matter of human caprice and were thus in fact dropping the divine rule.”

- Pieper, Christian Dogmatics, III:385-386.

John Fritz

“In our Lutheran Church we practice close communion, insisting that only members of the Lutheran Church in good standing be permitted to partake of the Sacrament…When a person communes at the altar of any church, he thereby, by a public act, confesses the faith of that church and at once enters into fellowship with those with whom he communes. …There is no closer fellowship than that of the Communion table. “The heterodox shall not be admitted to the Sacrament. He who does not believe that Christ gives us His true body and blood in the Sacrament and that these are received by the mouth of the communicant, whether he be worthy or unworthy, does not discern the body of Christ, 1 Cor. 11:29, and shall under no circumstances be admitted to the Sacrament. But even he who confesses the true presence of Christ’s body and blood shall not have the Sacrament administered to him if he is not, and will not be, a member of the true Evangelical Lutheran Church, but desires to remain a Roman Catholic, a Baptist, a Presbyterian, a Methodist, or a member of anyone of the other Reformed churches, unless it be that he is at the point of death….It must be remembered that he who communes at the altar of a church thereby confesses the faith of that church (Abendmahlsgemeinschaft ist Glaubensgemeinschaft). We have a right to assume that those who commune at our Lutheran altars confess the faith of the Lutheran church. The Lord Himself demands that every Christian should believe all the Word of God and not only some of it, MT 28:20. See Synodalbericht d. Westl. Distr., 1870 [Walther's Theses on Communion Fellowship].

-Fritz, Pastoral Theology, St. Louis: CPH, 1932, p. 135.

Edward W. A. Koehler

“While we use the Sacrament primarily to be assured of the grace of God and be strengthened in our faith, we also confess our faith when we partake of the Lord’s Supper. “For as often as ye eat this bread and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord’s death until He come,” 1 Cor. 11:26. Going to Communion, we confess by this very act that we trust for grace and salvation in the merits of Christ’s death, and that we personally regard the doctrines of the church, where we commune, as the true teachings of the apostles, Acts 2:42. At whose altar we worship, his religion we confess. 1 Cor. 10:18. For this reason a person who is known to be an unbeliever, or who does not agree with us in the confession of our faith should not be admitted to our altar. Neither may a Lutheran commune in any church which according to its public confession upholds false doctrines…

“The Lord’s Supper was instituted for Christians. Christ gave the Supper not to the general public promiscuously, as He fed the five thousand, John 6, but to His disciples. In the Apostolic Church the Gospel was preached to all that would listen, but the Sacrament was given to baptized Christians only, Acts 2:42; 1 Cor. 11: 20; 10:176.

- Koehler, A Summary of Christian Doctrine, River Forest: Koehler Publishing, 1939

Ottomar Krueger

“Whereas the Lord commanded His disciples and church for all times to come to evangelize the world by baptizing them and teaching them, and opened the preaching of the Gospel and Baptism to all human beings. He celebrated the Lord’s Supper in closed company of the twelve; the attendance was restricted. Thus today also, Holy Baptism and the holy Gospel are distributed, preached and applied publicly to all who have a desire, but the Eucharist is for those who already believe, who can examine themselves for their spiritual worthiness or unworthiness, and to those who can testify by participation of the unity of their faith…

“We insist therefore that there are certain groups of people who cannot be entitled to partake of the Lord’s Supper in our church or with us at the altar…In the Old Testament no stranger who was not united with the Israelites in their faith and belief was permitted to eat the Passover with them. Therefore we contend today that the Lord’s Supper in our Lutheran churches is not to be administered to those of a heterodox faith, be that what it may. …

“The Lord’s Supper is a testimony of the unity of our faith, and going to Communion together means a fellowship which we have with all participating. Those who partake together enter into a most intimate communion according to 1 Cor. 10:17 and 21, where we are called one bread and one body, and in verse 18 the apostle asks: “Are not they which eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar?” There can be no denial of this intimate relationship into which we are brought and confess to stand when we partake of the Lord’s Supper together.

- The Abiding Word, III:468-469.

Commission on Theology and Church Relations

Inasmuch as Communion fellowship Biblically embodies the confession of a common faith (1 Corinthians 10:17; Acts 2:42)-for it is a theological definition of the one true faith, not a sociological-empirical description of whatever faith a group finds itself agreed in-it is necessary for the church to guard itself from doctrinal fractures of that fellowship (1 Tim. 1:3-11). To indiscriminately admit even well intentioned people to Holy Communion is neither to honor God nor love our fellowmen (1 Cor. 11).

Scripture requires both a knowledge of the Lord’s Supper sufficient for its proper reception and a contrite faith which trusts Jesus’ word. It is neither loving nor responsible for a pastor or church to sacrifice theological considerations for social pressure or custom. If, for example, an individual is admitted to Holy Communion simply because he is a relative or friend of a member, and that person participates in the sacrament to his/her judgment (1 Cor. 11:29), the officiant will one day be asked to give an account of his sacramental stewardship (cf. 2 Tim. 4:1-8).

Lutherans vigorously reject a view of the Lord’s Supper which would claim divine blessings for those who receive the Lord’s Supper in a merely ritualistic fashion…Also rejected by the Scriptures and the Confessions is that observance of the sacrament which would use it merely as a tool toward closer human fellowship rather than as a thankful celebration of that Christian fellowship which God has given. St. Paul in 1 Corinthians details the abuse which occurred when men sought to serve their social goals rather than the Lord who instituted the Sacred Supper…

Thus there is a great continuity of concern from our Lord’s words of guidance to His apostles, though Paul’s admonitions in the epistles, through the practice of the early church, to the practices of the Reformation church and of confessional Lutheranism today.

The catechetical enterprise, whether of the Didache or Luther’s Catechism, is not non-Biblical legalism but rather Biblical realism (1 Cor. 11:17ff). Its aim is not the exclusion of certain individuals from the sacrament, but the honoring of God’s Word and the true benefit of a fallen humanity.

Close Communion (Note: While the term “closed communion” has a longer history (cf. W. Elert, ch. 7) and is regarded by some as theologically more proper than “close communion,” the latter term, which has been used in more recent history by writers in The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, may also properly be employed as a way of saying that confessional agreement must preceded the fellowship of Christians at the Lord’s Table. Whatever term is used, it is clear that the LCMS’ official practice is consistent with the historic practice of the church, which has regarded unity of doctrine as a prerequisite for admission to the sacrament (cf. 1967 Res. 2-19).

The practice of refusing Communion to certain Christians and the general population at Lutheran altars is called close Communion. This practice serves the Gospel, and even those refused, by its reverence for our Lord’s last will and testament….It is a desire to honor and obey the word of Christ which has led Christians to reserve the sacrament for those who share that desire and understanding [belief in the Real Presence]. Chemnitz, with Luther and the Lutheran Confessions, specifically defends the Real Presence in the Lord’s Supper against the errors of human interpretation in various Christian fellowships of his day.

Since fellowship at the Lord’s Table is also a confession of a common faith, it would not be truthful for those who affirm the Real Presence and those who deny it to join one another. Their common Communion would indicate to the non-Christian community that the last will and testament of Christ could be interpreted in contradictory ways. Indeed, the non-Christian might rightly ask whether it was Jesus’ word which determined the church’s position and practice or simply a human consensus.

Therefore it is true that “No one who truly accepts the Real presence as the very Word of God can grant a person the right to deny it and to commune with him at the same table. Just so, no Presbyterian, for example, who declares that there can be no real eating and drinking of the body and blood of Christ, could really want to receive the Supper at an altar where just this impossible thing to him is confessed and taught.” [Hamann, Studies in Holy Communion, p. 12].

Close communion seeks to prevent a profession of confessional unity in faith where there is, in fact, disunity and disagreement. It would be neither faithful to the Scriptural requirements for admission to Holy Communion (1 Cor. 11:27ff; cf. 10:16-17) nor helpful to fallen humanity if the Christian Church welcomes to its altars those who deny or question clear Scriptural teachings.

The reasons for the practice of close Communion are often misunderstood by Christians who have been accustomed to an “open Communion” policy. In a tract entitled, “Why Close Communion?” the rationale for the practice of close communion is explained in this way:

“So it is not that a Lutheran congregation want to bar fellow-saints from the blessings of the Eucharist when they practice Close Communion. It is not that they want to be separatistic, or set themselves up as judges of other men. The practice of Close Communion is prompted by love and is born of the heartfelt conviction, on the basis of Scripture alone, that we must follow Christ’s command. This means refusing the Lord’s Supper to those whose belief is not known to us. It is not showing love to allow a person to do something harmful, even though he may think it is for his own good. It also means if they are members of a Christian body which departs from the full truth of the Scripture in some of its doctrines, that we must not minimize the evil of this false teaching by opening our fellowship to any and all Christians who err in the faith. [Deffner, Why Close Communion?, 1955, p. 14.] In keeping with the principle that the celebration and reception of the Lord’s Supper is a confession of the unity of faith, while at the same time recognizing that there will be instances when sensitive pastoral care needs to be exercised, the Synod has established an official practice requiring, “that pastors and congregations of The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, except in situations of emergency and in special cases of pastoral care, commune individuals of only those synods which are now in fellowship with us. By following this practice whereby only those individuals who are members of the Synod or of a church body wiht which the Synod is in altar and pulpit fellowship are ordinarily communed, pastors and congregations preserve the integrity of their witness to the Gospel of Christ as it is revealed in the Scriptures and confessed in the Lutheran confessional writings.

[Note 28: Res. 2-19. See also 1969 Res. 3-18 and 1981 Res. 3-01. Cf. Francis Pieper, Christian Dogmatics, III, p. 381. Pieper begins his discussion concerning who is to be admitted to the Lord's Supper by stating: "Christian congregations, and their public servants, are only the administrants and not the lords of the Sacrament...On the one hand, they are not permitted to introduce 'Open Communion'; on the other hand, they must guard against denying the Sacrament to those Christians for whom Christ has appointed it." To be sure, a heavy responsibility rests on pastors in making decisions as they evaluate those exceptional cases of pastoral care where persons who are members of denominations not in fellowship with the LCMS desire to receive the Lord's Supper. However, part of the pastor's responsibility in such situations involves informing individuals desiring Communion also of their responsibility regarding an action which identifies them with the confessional position of the church body to which the host congregation belongs and their willingness to place themselves under the spiritual care of the pastor in that place]. As congregations practice close Communion, much care should be taken and energy expended in articulating the rationale of this practice. An evangelical and winsome effort should be made to present the Biblical claims, so that the church’s posture does not appear to be a mere institutional accruement. Procedures for admitting guests to the Lord’s Table should be such that the appearance of unknown communicants at the altar is minimized as much as possible. Further, the Office of the Keys is less than faithfully exercised when admission to the sacrament is granted to all who come to the altar regardless of their faith and congregational and/or denominational affiliation. The practice of “open” Communion renders it difficult, if not impossible, for church discipline to be exercised in a way that honors the ministrations being carried out by those to whom the responsibility of spiritual care for a member of God’s flock has been entrusted (Heb. 13:17; cf. John 20:22-23; Acts 20:27-28; 1 Cor. 4:1-2).

- Theology and Practice of the Lord’s Supper, 1983, pp. 19-23.

Mueller and Kraus

“Because altar fellowship is the most intimate expression of confessional unity, those who commune at the Lutheran altar are those who are in complete confessional agreement and fellowship with the other communicants. This practice, referred to as close communion, is an evangelical expression of the Lutheran church’s love for the communicant and for Christ’s supper. We do not wish to allow those who are not members of our confessional fellowship to be misled or confused by their participation in the sacrament at our altars. As Fritz points out, “Abendmahlsgemeinschaft ist Glaubensgemeinschaft.”

- Pastoral Theology, St. Louis: CPH, 1990.

Prepared by

The Rev. Paul T. McCain

February 1997 edition

The Church’s Use of Social Media: Harmful or Helpful?

November 6th, 2009 3 comments

social-mediaConsider what this recent study has to say to the Church’s use of social media. HT: WordPost

Here’s a clip from the article:

“Social networks are creating a monumental shift in how people communicate with each other and with brands,” said Michael Kahn, SVP of Marketing at Performics. “The results of this study can help marketers better understand where and how consumers interact with social media sites and what types of offers and communications engage them and motivate them to act.”

The study also shows the immense opportunity for engaging with consumers on specific social networking sites:

  • Forty-six percent of respondents say they would talk about or recommend a product on Facebook
  • Forty-four percent of Twitter users have recommended a product
  • Thirty-six percent of YouTube users say that they have gone to an online retailer or ecommerce site after learning about a brand on a social network site

“The numbers are staggering. One in four respondents have four or more active social network accounts and more than one quarter access their Facebook or Twitter accounts at least once a day via their mobile phone,” notes Scott Haiges, President of ROI Research. “We knew that these sites are extremely popular for socializing, but the level of interest for branding and promotional marketing content is surprisingly large.”

Whatever you think, whatever you say, whatever you write, it has no taste unless Jesus be in it.

November 6th, 2009 1 comment

chi_rhoJohann Gerhard’s astounding doctrinal work, his Loci Theologici, is being presented to English speakers in a magnificent translation. The third volume in the series On Christ is going to be arriving at Concordia Publishing House very soon. Gerhard begins his presentation by explaining that nobody can know the doctrine of Christ by nature, but only by Divine revelation in the Word (Matt. 16:17; Rom. 16:25). He explains that Christ “is the center of all the prophetic and apostolic Scripture, the foundation of the Church, the treasury of our hope, the fountain of salvation and grace. it is from Him that we are called Christians, and from Him come down all things necessary for our salvation.” Johann Gerhard On Christ (CPH: 2009), p. 3).Then he concludes his introduction by commenting on the practical use of the doctrine of Christ.

“The practical use is exhorting, that we learn the doctrine of Christ with singular zeal and diligence and fortify our hearts against any corruptions thereof. As Christ is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end (Rev. 1:8), so also He must be the beginning and end in our meditations and studies. Whatever you think, whatever you say, whatever you write, it has no taste unless Jesus be in it. Bernard, on Song of Songs, sermon 1.5, col. 532 writes: “Every food for the soul is dry if that oil is not poured upon it. It is tasteless if it is not seasoned with this salt. If you write anything, it is tasteless to me unless I read Jesus there.”

Facebook is Getting Old….Where Gen Y is Hanging Out These Days

November 5th, 2009 Comments off

More of the latest stats on who is where and using what on the

LOGOS 4.0 – Hold That Thought

November 5th, 2009 1 comment

After trying to download and install the LOGOS 4.0 upgrade, both in a Mac Native alpha, and the PC version in Parallels on my Mac. I’ll just say this. You may want to wait a few months to let the dust settle before you embark on your update/upgrade adventure. It’s not been a pretty picture for me. Your mileage, as always, may vary.

The Mac Alpha is a mess, and the PC version, running under Parallels, is a beast and is performing terribly. LOGOS 3.0 performs quickly and flawlessly.

For now, I’m sticking with LOGOS 3.0 which is running beautifully and flawlessly for me, under emulation, on my Macs.

Categories: Uncategorized

Looking for Portals of Prayer Authors

November 5th, 2009 Comments off

Concordia Publishing House (CPH) has sent out a call for devotional writers for its popular daily magazine, Portals of Prayer®. The developers of Portals of Prayer ask that interested writers send an e-mail to by November 15, 2009, to request a copy of the 2012 Writer’s Guidelines.

More information about Portals of Prayer is available at Robert Sexton, Marketing Manager of Portals of Prayer, says “Portals of Prayer is the longest running daily devotional magazine, delivering life enriching content to over 750,000 Christians every day of the year.”

After applicants receive their copy of the 2012 Writing Guidelines, the company will ask for four sample devotions. Writing samples are due January 4, 2010, and CPH will select its team of authors sometime that month.

In addition, Sexton shares the following requirements to write for Portals of Prayer, “We ask that the authors show their excellent writing skills, accuracy in theology, and the ability to write within specified guidelines, which includes accurate word count.”

Categories: CPH Resources

The Global Importance of Bach Today

November 5th, 2009 3 comments

bach-hausmannDr. Uwe Siemon-Netto kindly sent me a copy of his paper that he delivered at the Good Shepherd Institute‘s recently completed conference, devoted this year to the topic Bach in Today’s Parish. What a splendid article. A must read, indeed.

The Global Importance of Bach Today

(Opening presentation by Uwe  Siemon-Netto at the “Bach in Today’s Partis” conference, Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, IN, November 2, 2009)

A few caveats are in order before I speak to you about the global significance of the music of Johann Sebastian Bach. I am not a musicologist, nor a musician; you’ll hear from these eminent scholars and artists later. I am just a journalist, and as a journalist, I’ll start with hometown news first — before going global.

I was born in Leipzig, virtually in the shadow of the Thomaskirche. When I was four, my parents began taking me to the motet or cantata services in the Thomaskirche every Friday or Saturday. This might sound alien to present-day parents, Lutherans included, who do not introduce their kids to music saying that they were “too busy” for that and preferred to spend some “quality time” with their children, like munching hamburgers together.

I spent most of World War II in Leipzig. This is why a blend of two kinds of acoustical impressions has been resonating in my head ever since my childhood – the sound of bombs and sound of Bach.

Often the two dovetailed. Often an air raid followed a cantata service or an organ recital. Or an air raid interrupted a house concert in our home. It was during one of these weekly concerts that I was first introduced to the Art of the Fugue, to which I shall return several times this morning.

The first time I heard the Art of the Fugue, it was played by a string quartet in the music room of our downtown apartment, which was destroyed on Dec. 4, 1943. Two of the musicians were members of the Gewandhaus orchestra, and two were amateurs. In the middle of the performance the sirens howled, and we all rushed to the basement.

There is something else I must tell you about these extraordinary events. They suspended on a very private level the artificial division between Jew and non-New imposed on us by the Nazis. Often Jewish relatives or friends came  out of hiding a night to perform Bach or Beethoven, Pachelbel or Pastorius with us before joining us in the air raid shelters or disappearing into the night.

From that the very moment I heard the Art of the Fugue at home, the opening bars of its Contrapunctus One returned to my inner ear virtually every day – while being bombed, while fleeing from Soviet-occupied Leipzig after the War, while sitting exams at school, while feeling lovesick or covering the Vietnam War as a reporter, while suffering from a writer’s blocks.

O, I sang Lutheran hymns in my head too, and I still do, none more often than “Abide with me.” But most of all I am fixated by these fugues! They order my mind and my soul.

In my prayers fugues join the hymns my grandmother sang into my ears during the air raids. And this has been so for nearly seventy years now.

But that’s enough about me for the moment. Let’s stay in Leipzig for a while longer, though, in Leipzig, cradle of the peaceful revolution that brought down the Berlin Wall exactly 20 years ago. Did you know that this monumental event in history has a strong Bach connection?

The protest movement that ultimately snowballed into the bloodless revolution of 1989 started with young Christians, and even though it developed into a mass movement involving more non-Christians than Christians, it was the Church that provided the umbrella for its growth.

Here is a significant bit of information you will rarely find in your media:

This protest movement had its roots in the popular anger over a barbaric act committed by the regime of East Germany’s Communist leader Walter Ulbricht. Ulbricht was a former bordello bouncer.

On his orders, the Communists blew up Leipzig’s  graceful late-Gothic university church. It stood on Karl-Marx-Platz, formerly – and now again — called Augustusplatz. Ulbricht, also a native Leipziger, had big plans for transforming this largest square in Germany into the biggest proletarian parade ground in Europe. In Ulbricht, a church had no business standing at such secular venue.

The university church, symbol of Leipzig’s academic life, as murdered on May 30, 1968. Three weeks later, the Third International Bach competition took place in Leipzig. During its opening session in the Congress Hall of the Zoo, Aall the Communist bigwigs sat in the front rows, next to prominent personalities of the international Bach community.

Suddenly, invisible hands unrolled a yellow poster from the ceiling of this concert hall causing a gasp. The poster showed the outline of the murdered church, the year of its death –1968 – and the words, “Wir fordern Wiederaufbau” (“We demand Reconstruction”).

This spectacular incident drew the attention of the world’s musical elite to a Communist outrage. The authors of this demonstration were four young physicists, all Christians. One was eventually betrayed by a West German leftist to East Germany’s secret police and sent to prison.

It was this stunning episode that ultimately spawned the resistance movement whose success in November of 1989 Germans are commemorating in these weeks.

I must still beg you to remain with me in Leipzig for a little longer for it is, after all, the capital of the global Bach community, the number one pilgrimage site for Bach lovers from all continents. Of the 850 students at Leipzig’s Hochschule für Musik und Theater Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, Germany’s oldest state conservatory, almost one quarter hails from Asia. Asians fill the pews of the Thomaskirche during its motet and cantata services.

Japanese in particular have been flocking to Leipzig even in Communist days. One of them was musicologist Keisuke Maruyama. He became a Christian by studying the impact of the weekday pericopes in the 18th-century Lutheran lectionary cycle on Bach’s cantatas.

After he had finished his research he told my friend Rev. Johannes Richter, then the superintendent (regional bishop) of the half of Leipzig’s Lutheran parishes: “It is not enough the read Christian texts. I want to be a Christian myself. Please baptize me.”

When Richter told me this during one of my rare reporting stints to Leipzig, atheism was the state religion of East Germany. On the same occasion I interviewed the members of the Thomanerchor, whose director Bach had been from 1723 until his death in 1750.

Since the Reformation, the Thomanerchor has been a municipal institution, and so it was in Communist days. But under Communism, for the first time in the choir’s history, no chaplain was allowed to provide pastoral care to these boys in their boarding school. For the previous 800 years, their predecessors received their instruction in the Christian faith in their dorms; now even table prayers were forbidden. To be catechized they had to go to a nearby church.

But when I asked several of these children whether they were believers they replied: “O yes, almost all of us are. You cannot really sing Bach without faith.”

These two examples show that in an era of darkest atheism Bach worked as a missionary – to a scholar from far-away Asia, and to kids raised in a godless environment, and even a ranking Communist functionary.

I remember interviewing the director of the Leipzig Bach Institute of that period. He was a member of the Communist hierarchy. He told me that he could only be an atheist only as long as he did not have to listen to Bach. “It is strange, though, how quickly this changes when I hear Bach’s music.”

This now really does take me to the global significance of the music of Johann Sebastian Bach. I have made the fascinating discovery that whenever I write about Bach for the Atlantic Times, my regular client, these articles automatically appear in its sister paper, the Asia-Pacific Times.

Why should this be so? Because the editors of both publications know that Bach is one of the hottest topics in the Far East. You write about Bach in Germany or in France or in the United States, and Asians gobble it up – so much so that features like these sell advertising space more easily than many other topics.

My wife and I spend our summers in the Dordogne in southwestern France, where towns and villages are gradually restoring their Romanesque parish churches; there are about one thousand of them in the Dordogne alone. These sanctuaries are usually empty, largely for lack of priests. But this changes during the summer thanks to a concert series organized by Ton Koopman, the great Dutch organist and Bach performer, who owns a home there.

Then busloads of music lovers pour into the Dordogne from all over the world, Dutch, Belgians, Germans, Scandinavians, Japanese, Koreans, Chinese. A French count sleeps in a car parked immediately in front of ancient churches where the musicians store their ancient instruments. He protects those instruments literally with his own body against thieves and vandals.

French peasants devoid of musical education suddenly appear in their churches they and their ancestors had ignored for at least two centuries. Their children, until recently ignorant of any form of classical music now join choirs whipped into shape by Koopman, the star, and hitherto unknown instructors.

Wealthy Frenchmen like my friend Francis Vigne, a retired engineer, buy orphaned organs from the Netherlands and Germany and install them in these rural sanctuaries that had never held any instrument since they were built a millennium ago. Now slowly the locals, intrigued by their alien sounds, pop into these churches they had never seen from the inside. And more and more often do I hear them sigh:  “All we need now is a pastor.”

It is my impression, which I cannot substantiate with statistics, and for which I must beg you to trust my experienced journalist’s nose, that all this is a manifestation of what many French call la grande soif pour Dieux or, more sophisticatedly, la soif pour la transcendence.

I claim that the music of Bach and his contemporaries lures the thirsty to a place where they will be refreshed — to ancient edifices where they sit tightly packed on narrow benches, often without backrests, and listen to Koopman’s Baroque ensemble, more and more and more every year – so much so that many copycats are now imitating Koopman’s initiative.

When I see and hear all this I cannot help thinking with enormous sadness and anger of one big Lutheran church near St. Louis, which proudly proclaims: “Here you will never hear the music of Johann Sebastian Bach.”

Well, let me tell you this: In southwestern France people might not fill the pews every Sunday but they have also not replaced the altars with sets of drums; they swing along not with praise bands but with Bach, Telemann and Pachelbel, Schütz, Schein and Scheidt. And I have noticed that when the concert season is well over, some of the churches, once so empty, remain packed.

Yes, I do believe that Bach is busily at work as an evangelist, to paraphrase Nathan Söderblom, the former archbishop of Uppsala in Sweden. I also share a similar view expressed by the late Arthur Peacocke, one of the most significant figures in the burgeoning dialogue between Faith and Science.

Peacocke, an Anglican canon and a noted biochemist, sounded much like Martin Luther who once described music as a tool of the Holy Spirit. He specifically made a point to which I am inclined to subscribe to heartily:
The Holy Spirit Himself dictated The Art of the Fugue into Bach’s plume.

When I wrote this on my blog site I got into deep waters with Lutheran coreligionists who believe themselves to be more orthodox than I.

What infuriated them was not only my reference to the Holy Spirit’s authorship of the Art of the Fugue, but even more so a story of mine describing how Glenn Gould’s rendering of the Goldberg Variations, another very abstract work by Bach, had triggered the interest of Masashi Masuda from Hokkaido in northern Japan in Christianity.

Masuda told me on the telephone one day that he wanted to discover the source of this wonderful composition – and was guided to the Christian faith, thus supporting Arthur Peacocke’s theory.

Masashi Masuda became a member of the Society of Jesus, and ultimately a professor of systematic theology at Sophía University, a Jesuit-owned school in Tokyo.

You cannot believe the furious electronic missives aimed at me across the internet in response to this report. “Sir, did you not know that the Holy Spirit only works through the Word?” one angry reader chided. I replied, “I thought we had learned in Systematics III that the Holy Spirit blew as he wished.

I apologized saying that I was unaware that the Third Person in the Trinity was under any obligation to study the Book of Concord before blowing? So now we know: The Holy Spirit has no right to use an abstract composition by Johann Sebastian Bach as a shoe ladle for the Word of God.

Another email correspondent seemed ready to burn me at the stake, if only this could be done in cyberspace, for implying in my Masashi Masuda story that the Holy Spirit might have guided this former non-believer to a denominationally incorrect target. “See? Now Siemon-Netto even asserts that Bach has driven this man to the Antichrist.”

Rare in a journalist’s life are such wonderful occasions when divine irony refutes absurdity with swift fury. On the very day I received this email a friend from Portland, Oregon, sent me this beautiful bit of news: She had a grandson, who used to be a godless lout. Then one day his father gave him a Glenn Could recording of Bach’s Italian Concerto, another work without words.

A few months later, this young man surprised his father by playing the Italian Concerto on the father’s piano, from memory. Until that point Dad had had no idea that this teenager even knew how to handle a piano.

Next, the boy informed his grandmother that he would now like to learn how to play the organ.

So from that day on he accompanied her every Sunday to her Lutheran church, and now he can play the organ and has become a Christian. I just copied this bit of her email to my angry interlocutor, self-righteously adding three of the first Latin words I had ever learned: “Quod erat demonstrandum.”

As Prof. Robin Leaver told me this morning, Johann Olearius, the 17th-century German mathematician and librarian called the Holy Spirit “der grosse Kapellmeister” (literally, the great orchestra donductor). Again: Quod erat demonstrandum.

This leads me to a fascinating question others are probably more competent to answer than I:

How come that the most destructive and tasteless forms of music and the very best have an almost equal ability to transcend ethnic, cultural and geographic barriers while others don’t.

How come you see people twitch to the same inane beat whether you are in Iceland or Okinawa, in Berlin or Bali? If Arthur Peacocke is right that the Holy Spirit disseminates Bach, what do you call the spirit that promulgates rap and Hip Hop but not, for example Schubert’s lieder, on a global scale?

We might have to consult psychologists here, perhaps even physicians. After attending a genuine – not touristy – Voodoo   séance in Haiti back in 1964 my wife told me that this experience had literally put a spell on her, mesmerized her, changed her physically at least as it was happening.

One physician said that this intense drumbeat actually changes your breathing or your heartbeat. I don’t know about that. I was there too, and it did nothing for me. But like my wife, and evidently like huge audiences in Tokyo, I feel profoundly changed when listening to the Art of the Fugue or the final chorus of Bach’s St. John’s Passion.

There might well be some kind of spirit involved in Rap and Voodoo, in addition perhaps even to temporary biological and physiological transformations. Others might be more competent to opine on this.

But what about the Spirit who made sure that the Japanese with their entirely different musical background grasp the significance of the music of Johann Sebastian Bach, whereas most of us Westerners might find the traditional tunes of Japan charming, exotic, an alien delight, but not really overwhelming.

About ten years ago, I put this question in Tokyo to a couple of musicologists, whose names, I am ashamed to say, I have misplaced in my messy archives. They came up with the following theory that might in part explain the current Bach Boom in Japan and other parts of Asia for several decades now.

When Francis Xavier and other Jesuit and Franciscan missionaries landed in southern Japan in the mid-16th century, they brought with them Western-style church music, especially Gregorian chant, and the organ. In fact they built pipe organs from bamboo, and before the sixteenth century was out, some Japanese princes were so accomplished on the Queen of the Instruments that in the 1560s three of them toured European courts playing before kings and princes and before the Pope.

Christianity was eradicated in Japan in the early 17th century. Christians were crucified, burned at the stake, and scorched to death while hanging upside-down over cesspools.

But my Japanese interlocutors told me that while the Christian faith was wiped out, elements of Western music infiltrated Japanese folk song.  This influence evidently remained strong enough to help Bach’s music sweep Japan four centuries later.

I like this theory. I am sure Arthur Peacocke would have loved it. It comforted me in my perplexity throughout the last four years in St. Louis when I listened to Robert Bergt’s spectacular Bach at the Sem performances, and found the huge Chapel of St. Timothy and St. Titus filled with white heads.

Most of these heads belonged to members of outside communities. I was grateful to see them there. But where were the seminarians in whose theological tradition the music of Johann Sebastian Bach played such a towering role? Where, for that matter, were most of the faculty members?

These concerts were recorded and then repeated over KFUO-FM, this marvelous gift by faithful German-American Lutherans to the larger St. Louis community, a jewel of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod whose reputation is otherwise not really one of winsomeness.

Now this KFUO is being sold for an apple and an egg. The church body whose founder had linked music and the Holy Spirit so closely glibly jettisons one the Comforter’s most splendid tools. Ladies and gentlemen, by all means grill me electronically for this outburst: This unfathomable act reminds me hauntingly of Walter Ulbricht’s massacre of our University Church in our mutual hometown of Leipzig in 1968.

I have been invited to talk to you about the Global Significance of the Music of Johann Sebastian Bach. You cannot do this without contemplating the Third Person of the Trinity, and I cannot help noticing that He is being mocked in our own family of faith.

Of course you can try to keep the Holy Spirit and his toys out of reality and replace them with kitsch. But be warned. The Holy Spirit will still blow as he wills, perhaps not on Founder’s Way in St. Louis, but — Japan and Korea, in once abandoned Romanesque churches in southwestern France, in the head of a formerly godless lout in Oregon — and in my head, which keeps finding order and comfort thanks to Bach’s incomplete masterpiece, the Art of the Fugue.

Uwe Siemon-Netto Ph.D., D.Litt.
Center for Lutheran Theology & Public Life
Concordia University,
Old Administration Building, 312 A
1530 Concordia West
Irvine, CA 92612-3203
Phone 949-854-8002

Categories: Bach

Planned Parenthood Clinic Director Quits: “I can’t do this anymore.”

November 4th, 2009 3 comments

Watching an ultrasound of an abortion changed Abby Johnson forever. She is now prolife and has quit her job as director of the Planned Parenthood clinic in Bryan, Texas. Johnson describes her conversion this way:

“I just thought I can’t do this anymore, and it was just like a flash that hit me and I thought that’s it.”

She also says that there was pressure on her to increase revenues for Planned Parenthood by increasing the number of abortions. She explains in The Houston Chronicle:

“Definitely the most lucrative part of their business was abortions. One of the things that kept coming up was how family planning services were really dragging down the budget, and family planning services include education about contraceptives. It was a drain on the budget, but abortion services were really running up the budget and that was keeping the center afloat.”

What a story. It just goes to show that pictures do matter. It’s hard to deny the humanity of the unborn when you are staring a human in the face in an ultrasound image. Hearts and minds are won with pictures. The images are tragic, but this is a wonderful conversion.

HT: Denny Burk.

Categories: Sanctity of Life

LOGOS 4 is Out and … Wow! Wow! Wow!

November 3rd, 2009 4 comments

Picture 4If you are a fan of LOGOS Bible Software like I am, you are going to be blown away by LOGOS 4, the new version of LOGOS. Be prepared for a long install and library upgrade process if you have a fairly hefty LOGOS library installed, but after a few hours of downloading and library configurating and indexing, I’m up and running with the new LOGOS 4 and I’m loving it. And what’s even more cool is that LOGOS 4 was rolled out with a free iPhone app, so, if you are using LOGOS 4, and are all set up and registered and updated, just download the app, sign in and you’ll have access to all your books. This post is merely my first impression after noodling around with LOGOS 4 for a few hours, but what a quantum leap forward.

How to get it? If you own a LOGOS “library set” as I do, you can upgrade to LOGOS 4 for a fairly minimal amount of money. I paid $60 to updgrade my Original Languages library, and I got a whole lot of other books along with it, in addition to LOGOS 4 itself. To get the LOGOS 4 engine you have to buy at least the “minimal crossgrade” if you don’t own any of the LOGOS libraries.

Here is the skinny on that, thanks to the LogosForLutherans Yahoo Group [which I recommend all Lutherans using LOGOS join, real power users here].

The Minimal Crossgrade is a new set of resources and add-ins that will give you the bare minimum for experiencing the full set of features in Logos 4.

The engine is and always has been free. However, if all you do is download the new engine, there will be some things that the engine can do that you can’t because you don’t have the resources to support it. That won’t limit your ability to do the things that you are generally used to doing in Logos. There are just new things you won’t be able to do because you don’t have the resources or technology add-ins to support it.

A 3.x example would be the Reverse Interlinears and resources with syntactical databases. You could run the 3.0 engine without them, but the Word Study wouldn’t return nearly as useful information as it does with those resources available to it. Reverse searches don’t work without the data found in an RI and a syntax search dialog is useless without something like the NT. You can’t give that data away for free, however, because publishers own it.

In the case of Logos 4, there’s not a ton to be gained without a Minimal Crossgrade other than searching that is likely to be faster. There is a ton of data in the new resources, and the Minimal Crossgrade allows you to buy just those resources and add-ins that make it possible to make use of features that need that data in order to function. Remember that paid version upgrades are not for buying a new engine but for adding books to your library and for generating new kinds of reports from add-in technology. Basic search, viewing, annotating and library management is always free. Books cost money.

As always, all technical support issues and questions need to be directed to LOGOS.COM or by calling LOGOS at 800-875-6467

Categories: Biblical Studies