Greetings dear reader. The Cyberbrethren blog site will be on hiatus for a couple of weeks while I take some time off. I won’t be responding to questions, and comments submitted may, or may not, be reviewed and posted. So, a blessed New Year to you and yours. I’ll see you later in January.
I received the other day a copy of a delightful new Arch Book titled Where Did the World Come From?
It does a masterful job recounting the Creation, but unlike most every other book for children, it does NOT leave out the fall into sin and the first promise of the Savior.
The illustrations are truly masterful. I can not recommend this little book highly enough.
You can purchase it here, or call 800-325-3040
In the summer of 2008, I came up with the crazy idea called a “memory moleskine.” The goal was to memorize the book of Ephesians before the end of the year. Since then, that Ephesian memory moleskine has resulted in 4,000+ people joining in. With a number of people desiring to do it again, I pitched the idea of memorizing the book of Philippians beginning in the New Year.
Let’s face it. Memorizing Scripture can be a difficult discipline, especially memorizing long passages of Scripture. In our fast-paced lives of multi-tasking with any number of things vying for our attention, there is a real danger for the Word of God to get squeezed out of our daily lives. More than any other time, Christians need to partner together for the purpose of internalizing Scripture, encouraging one another to abide in the words of Christ, and remembering the weighty truths that center us in God’s work in our lives. To do this, a system for memorizing Scripture has been created called the memory moleskine.
Starting in 2011, I am beginning a project called P2R (Partnering to Remember). The goal is to memorize the entire book of Philippians by Easter Sunday (April 24, 2011) through partnering with other believers using the memory moleskine. Paul praised the church in Philippi for their partnership in advance of the Gospel, and in the spirit of that partnership, this project intends to bring Christians together for the deepening work of God’s Word in their lives. Simply put, I believe we should partner to remember.
Using the Cahier moleskine, I have created a pocket-size notebook that provides a practical and accessible way to memorize Scripture. Through collaboration with The Resurgence, a customized PDF has been created for you to download with a week-by-week outline for memorizing the book of Philippians in 16 weeks using the English Standard Version (ESV) of the Bible. On one side of the moleskine you simply paste the week’s verses to memorize, and on the other side you write your reflections on the verses while indicating how many times you rehearsed them each day. Included in this PDF are encouragements and helps to memorizing and retaining Scripture from Donald Whitney, Andy Davis, and John Piper.
The Cahier moleskine can be purchased either directly from Moleskine or from various bookstores such as Borders or Books-a-Million. My hope is that many Christians will establish a rhythm of remembering God’s Word together through a system that helps access Scripture wherever you are. So I encourage you to join me at the beginning of the New Year with a memory moleskine in your hand that God’s Word may be more treasured in your heart!
How to Make Your Own 2011 Philippians Memory Moleskine
1. Purchase your own Cahier Moleskine (3.5×5.5 size)
2. Download the PDF provided by the Resurgence
3. Cut the weekly Scripture reading according to the border
4. Use double-sided tape to paste the weekly section of verses
5. Find someone who you can partner with for encouragement & accountability
6. Jump in starting January 1, 2011!!!
If you decide to partner with me next year to memorize Philippians, please let me know in the comments. I would love to know who you are! And if you don’t have someone to partner with you, I will attempt to encourage you through my blog.
Here, with respect to our confessional pledge, opinions are divided even as the churches themselves part company at this point. Here it also becomes clear why the Reformed Churches have not been able to preserve their Confessions. The “pious relativism” of the Reformed Confession finds expression in the quatenus (the “insofar as”) of the doctrinal pledge. Whereas the Lutheran pastor assumes the responsibility of teaching according to the Confessions “because” (quia) they are in harmony with the Holy Scriptures, the Reformed pastor does this only “insofar as” (quatenus) it is Scriptural, and because he regards the Lutheran pledge with the quia as presumption, yea, as an elevation of the Confessions above the Holy Scriptures. What shall we say to this? First, that the properly understood quatenus (“insofar as”) is self-evident for every church which appears to the Reformation, since no church wants to teach anything which is not Scripture doctrine. It is so self-evident that one does not need to articulate it. Men can and must accept also the Talmud or the Tridentimum [creed of the Roman Catholic Council of Trent] quatenus, “insofar as,” they interpret Scriptures correctly. The quatenus pledge is really no pledge at all. Secondly, the question which comes into consideration in connection with the confessional pledge is simply and solely the question whether the Confessions are Scriptural, whether they are the substance of the Holy Scriptures, as the Formula of Concord expresses it. Only if I am unshakably convinced and that on the basis of most earnest searching in the Scriptures, can I accept it and promise that “I will neither privately nor publicly speak or write anything contrary to it, but by the help of God’s grace intend to abide thereby” (Conclusion of the Solid Declaration).
What are we to do with the Virgin Birth? The doctrine was among the first to be questioned and then rejected after the rise of historical criticism and the undermining of biblical authority that inevitably followed. Critics claimed that since the doctrine is taught in “only” two of the four Gospels, it must be elective. The Apostle Paul, they argued, did not mention it in his sermons in Acts, so he must not have believed it. Besides, the liberal critics argued, the doctrine is just so supernatural. Modern heretics like retired Episcopal bishop John Shelby Spong argue that the doctrine was just evidence of the early church’s over-claiming of Christ’s deity. It is, Spong tells us, the “entrance myth” to go with the resurrection, the “exit myth.” If only Spong were a myth. Now, even some revisionist evangelicals claim that belief in the Virgin Birth is unnecessary. The meaning of the miracle is enduring, they argue, but the historical truth of the doctrine is not really important. Must one believe in the Virgin Birth to be a Christian? This is not a hard question to answer. It is conceivable that someone might come to Christ and trust Christ as Savior without yet learning that the Bible teaches that Jesus was born of a virgin. A new believer is not yet aware of the full structure of Christian truth. The real question is this: Can a Christian, once aware of the Bible’s teaching, reject the Virgin Birth? The answer must be no. . . .
Millard Erickson states this well: “If we do not hold to the virgin birth despite the fact that the Bible asserts it, then we have compromised the authority of the Bible and there is in principle no reason why we should hold to its other teachings. Thus, rejecting the virgin birth has implications reaching far beyond the doctrine itself. Implications, indeed. If Jesus was not born of a virgin, who was His father? There is no answer that will leave the Gospel intact. The Virgin Birth explains how Christ could be both God and man, how He was without sin, and that the entire work of salvation is God’s gracious act. If Jesus was not born of a virgin, He had a human father. If Jesus was not born of a virgin, the Bible teaches a lie. Carl F. H. Henry, the dean of evangelical theologians, argues that the Virgin Birth is the “essential, historical indication of the Incarnation, bearing not only an analogy to the divine and human natures of the Incarnate, but also bringing out the nature, purpose, and bearing of this work of God to salvation.” Well said, and well believed.
Read the whole article here.
I’m happy to announce that a new book is available from Concordia Publishing House titled Lutheran Spirituality: Life as God’s Child. It is based on the extremely popular series of Bible studies under the same name, drawn together and edited into book form. This makes a perfect companion volume for Lutheranism 101. It is a 352 page paperback, for $14.99. You can download a PDF sample of the book as well. Here is the book’s description from the Concordia Publishing House web site. Order the book from the CPH web site, or call 800-325-3040 to place your order.
Word: God Speaks to Us
Prayer: We Speak to God
Confession: God Gives Us Truth
Cross: We Suffer with Jesus
Witness: We Share Our Faith
Vocation: God Serves through Us
Community: We Are Not Alone
Promise: God Is for Us
Rev. Robert C. Baker
Senior Editor, Adult Bible Studies, Concordia Publishing House
General Editor, Natural Law: A Lutheran Reappraisal
Rev. Charles P. Schaum
Editor, Professional and Academic Books, Concordia Publishing House
General Editor, Law & Gospel: How to Read and Apply the Bible
Rev. William M. Cwirla
Pastor of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, Hacienda Heights, California
Assistant Professor of Pastoral Ministry and Missions & Director of Field Education
Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Indiana
Author of Handling the Word of Truth: Law and Gospel in the Church Today
Dean of Chapel & Head of Biblical Studies, Australian Lutheran College, Adelaide, Australia
Author of Grace upon Grace: Spirituality for Today & Concordia Commentary: Leviticus
Translator of Albrecht Peters, Commentary on Luther’s Catechisms: Ten Commandments
Professor and Chair of Pastoral Ministry and Missions & Dean of Graduate Studies
Author of Mission from the Cross: The Lutheran Theology of Mission (also available in a Lay Reader’s Edition)
Pastor of St. Paul Lutheran Church, Kalkaska, Michigan
Associate Professor of Systematic Theology, Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Indiana
“I beg and admonish faithfully all devout Christians that they not be offended or stumble over the simple stories related in the Bible, nor doubt them. However poor they may appear, they are certainly the words, history, and judgments of the high divine Majesty, Power, and Wisdom. For this is the book which makes all wise and clever people fools, and can only be understood by simple people, as Christ says . Therefore let go your own thoughts and feelings and esteem this book as the best and purest treasure, as a mine full of great wealth, which can never be exhausted or sufficiently excavated. thus you will find the divine wisdom which God presents in the Bible in a manner so simple that it damps the pride of clever people and brings it to nothing. In this book you find the swaddling clothes and the manger in which Christ lies, and to which the angel directs the shepherds. Those swaddling clothes are shabby and poor, yet precious is the treasure wrapped in them, for it is Christ.” - Martin Luther
The Apocrypha: Lutheran Study Edition is coming along very nicely. It is on track to be available in 2012. We have received our first set of pages in layout and it is looking great. Here’s a sneak-peek, and, as always, for a larger image, click on the images below, then it will appear in another window, click on it again for the larger size.
The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.
This is the title, or caption, which Matthew places at the head of his book. The entire Gospel is a book of the generation of Jesus Christ in the sense which the Jews usually attached to the expression in similar connections, meaning an account of the chief events in a person’s life, more or less briefly related, Gen. 5, 1; 6, 9; 37, 2; 2, 4; Num. 3, 1. The evangelist offers a history of the birth, acts, suffering, death, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. But the first verses are a genealogy in the most restricted sense of the term, as presenting a table of Christ’s legal forefathers through His foster-father Joseph, rightful heir of the kingdom, the thought most interesting to Jewish Christians. Matthew calls Jesus the Son of David, the king of the Golden Age of the Jewish people, to whose family the promise of the Savior was at last restricted, 2 Sam. 7, 12.13; Ps. 89, 3. 4; 132, 11; Is. 11, 1; Jer. 23, 5. Christ was prophesied under the very name of “David,” Ezek. 34, 23. 24; 37, 24. 25. “Son of David” was the official title which the Jews applied to the expected Messiah, Matt. 9, 27; 12, 23; 21, 9; under this designation they had been led, by prophetic authority, to expect Him. But it would also arouse the attention and hold the interest of Christians of Jewish descent to know that the Christ whom Matthew proclaimed was the son of Abraham, for they knew that the father of their race had received the promise of the Lord: “In thee and thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed,” Gen. 12, 3; 18, 18; 22, 18. “For this reason he refers only to those two fathers, Abraham and David, since to these two alone the promise of Christ was made in these people. Therefore Matthew emphasizes the promises to Abraham and David, because he has a definite intention with regard to this nation, in order that he might influence them, as heirs of the promise, in a charming manner, to accept the Christ prophesied to them and to believe that this man was Jesus whom they had crucified.” 2)
The evangelist now offers the genealogy proper: V. 2. Abraham begat Isaac; and Isaac begat Jacob; and Jacob begat Judas and his brethren; v. 3. and Judas begat Phares and Zara of Thamar; and Fhares begat Esrom; and Esrom begat Aram; y. 4. and Aram begat Aminadab; and Aminadab begat Naasson; and Naasson begat Salmon; v. 5. and Salmon begat Booz of Rachab; and Booz begat Obed of Ruth; and Obed begat Jesse; v. 6. and Jesse begat David the king; and David the king begat Solomon of her that had been the wife of Urias; v. 7. and Solomon begat Boboam; and Roboam begat Abia; and Abia begat Asa; v. 8. and Asa begat Josaphat; and Josaphat begat Joram; and Joram begat Ozias; v. 9. and Ozias begat Joatham; and Joatham begat Achaz; and Achaz begat Ezekias; v. 10. and Ezekias begat Manasses; and Manasses begat Amon; and Amon begat Josias; v. 11. and Josias begat Jechonias and his brethren, about the time they were carried away to Babylon; v. 12. and after they were brought to Babylon, Jechonias begat Sala-thiel; and Salathiel begat Zorobabel; v. 13. and Zorobabel begat Abiud; and Abiud begat Eliakim; and Eliakim begat Azor; v. 14. and Azor begat Sadoc; and Sadoc begat Achim; and Achim begat Eliud; v. 15. and Eliud begat Eleazar; and Eleazar begat Matthan; and Matthan begat Jacob; v. 16. and Jacob begat Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ. In three sections of fourteen members each the progenitors of Joseph are tabulated, reaching back to Abraham, the father of the faithful. No person ever born into this world could boast, in a direct line, a more elevated or illustrious ancestry than Jesus Christ. The kingly, the priestly, the prophetic offices were represented in this list in all their glory and splendor. “The holy Matthew writes his Gospel in a most masterly manner and makes three distinctions of the fathers of whom Christ sprang forth, fourteen patriarchs, fourteen kings, and fourteen princes. . . . There are three times fourteen persons, as Matthew himself names them; from Abraham to David, both included, are fourteen persons or members; from David to the Babylonian captivity, again fourteen members; . . . and from the Babylonian captivity to Christ there are also fourteen members.” 3)
A careful comparison of the list as here given and the account found in the Old Testament. 2 Chron. 22-26 shows that Ahaziah, Joash, and Amaziah followed after Joram, before Uzziah. The explanation for this difference is found in the fact that the word begat in Old Testament genealogical tables is sometimes used in a wider sense, as here, when it is said of Uzziah’s great-great-grandfather that he begat Uzziah. The omission of the three kings was of no consequence to the evangelist’s argument, which was to show the legal descent of Joseph, the foster-father of Jesus, and therefore of Jesus Himself, in an uninterrupted line from David, and consequently from Abraham. “What need is there of many words? Matthew himself shows sufficiently that he did not want to enumerate the generations with Jewish strictness, and so excite doubtfulness. For almost after the manner of a Jew he makes three times fourteen members of fathers, kings, and princes, but with deliberate knowledge he omits three members of the second section, as though he would say: The genealogical tables are indeed not to be despised, but herein lies the chief thing that Christ is promised through the generations of Abraham and David.” 4)
Another difficulty is in verse 11, where Josias is named as the father of Jechonias, whereas he was the grandfather, 1 Chron. 3, 14-16. The solution is found either by reference to the explanation above, showing that Matthew made use of a deliberate contraction, since the Jews were in the habit of extending the appellation “father” also to the grandparent; or we may adopt the marginal reading, which is based upon some Greek manuscripts: “Josias begat Jakim, and Jakim begat Jechonias.” This would also yield the fourteenth member of this section, unless we include Jesus in this group. In a similar manner, though Jechonias had no brethren mentioned in Scriptures, his father had, and it is by no means unusual to find more remote relatives spoken of in this manner, Gen. 28, 13; 31, 42; 14, 14; 24, 27; 29, 15. “It is not to be supposed that the evangelist was at all concerned to make sure that no link in the line was omitted. His one concern would be to make sure that no name appeared that did not belong to the line.” 5)
Another significant fact: Only four women are mentioned in the tables, and of these two were originally members of Gentile nations, Rachab and Ruth, and two were adulteresses, Thamar and Bathsheba. Note, also, that the last is not mentioned by name, the reference being both delicate and reproachful. “Of the kings and princes which Matthew enumerates, there were a few very bad knaves, as we read in the Book of Kings; yet God permits them to be entered as though they were so worthy that He should have wanted to be born of them. He also” has no pious woman described: the four women that are mentioned here were all considered knaves and impious by the people, and regarded as evil women, as Thamar, who with Judas, her husband’s father, begat Phares and Zara, as is written Gen. 38, 18; Rachab is called a knave or harlot, Josh. 2, 1; Ruth was a Gentile woman, Ruth 1, 4: though she was pious in honor, since one reads nothing evil of her, yet because she was a heathen, she was despised as a dog by the Jews and regarded as unworthy before the world; Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah, was an adulteress before David took her in marriage and begat Solomon with her, 2 Sam. 11, 4. All of which, beyond doubt, is enumerated for the reason that we should see how God desired to present to all sinners a mirror that Christ was sent to sinners and wanted to be born of sinners; yea, the greater the sinners, the greater the refuge they should have with the merciful God, Priest, and King, who is our Brother, in whom, and in none other besides, we may fulfill the Law and receive God’s grace. For this He came from heaven and desires no more from us but only this, that we let Him be our God, Priest, and King. Then all shall be right and plain; through Him alone we become children of God and heirs of heaven.”
The table of Matthew ends with the words, v. 16 a: And Jacob begat Joseph, the husband of Mary. This fact, and the further circumstance that Luke, chapter 3, has an altogether different list of ancestors of Jesus, must be considered proof positive that we have in Matthew the genealogy of Joseph, the foster-father of Jesus. The aim of the evangelist therefore undoubtedly was to set forth Jesus as the legal son of Joseph, Mary’s husband, at His birth, and as such the proper heir of David’s throne. Joseph was, before the law, father of Jesus. All his rights and privileges, by reason of his birth and ancestry, were by law transferred to his son. As long as he lived, Joseph continued in his role as the legal paternal ancestor of Jesus, Matt. 13, 35; John 6, 42. In this way the name and position of Jesus, especially during His ministry, were put above reproach, Deut. 23, 2, and His claim as to being the heir of David’s line was placed on a sound basis, even in the eyes of the sticklers for legal form.
Note the careful phraseology used by Matthew in this sentence, v. 16b: Mary, of whom was born Jesus. Not from them both, as natural parents, after the usual manner of procreation, was the Savior begotten, but of Mary only, thus placing the event which Matthew is about to relate entirely outside of the course of nature, beyond the plane of human understanding. Jesus is her son’s name, after the great work which He came into the world to perform, the salvation of mankind. And He is called the Christ, which has precisely the same meaning as the Hebrew Messiah: the Anointed of God. It was His official title according to His threefold office, as the legitimate descendant of David, which the genealogy showed Him to be. He alone is rightly, above all His fellows after the flesh, called the Christ; He is King of kings and Lord of lords: the great King, who governs the entire universe with His almighty power and reigns in the hearts of His followers with His benign mercy; He is the Prophet greater than Moses, with a message of truth and love and grace divine for all men; He is the great High Priest, who in His own body and by the shedding of His holy, precious blood made full atonement for the sins of the entire world.
Such is Matthew’s introduction to his Gospel. And in concluding this genealogy, which immediately places Jesus the Christ into the center before the minds and hearts of his readers, he gives a brief summary according to the divisions of Jewish history: V. 17. So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; from David until the carrying away into Babylon are tour-teen generations; and from the carrying away into Babylon unto Christ are fourteen generations. The three periods represent, respectively, the three forms of government which the Jews had: theocracy, monarchy, hierarchy, with judges, kings, and priests at their head. But, incidentally, the same division sums up Israel’s fortunes. First came the age of slow and steady growth, with all the manifestations of the first love’s zeal and fervor toward God, culminating in the reign of David. Then came the period of slow decline and gradual disintegration, ushered in with the luxurious reign of Solomon and characterized by the continuous and losing conflict with idolatry. And lastly came the period of a restored Church with internal ruin, of a dead orthodoxy, of an insipid ritualism. If any fact stands out clearly from this contrast, it is this, that redemption was most sorely and urgently needed.
- from Paul Kretzmann, ‘Popular Commentary of the Bible’
We were drinking hot chocolate with whipped cream and/or marshmallows, like there was no tomorrow, eating Hodaks fried chicken, and enjoying wonderful homemade desserts, and then, things got really crazy…here’s a picture of one of the games we played:
Lutheran World Federation Invites Pope to Help Plan Celebration of 500th Anniversary of the Reformation
No word yet if the Pope is going to invite the LWF to help him plan an ecumenically appropriate celebration of Luther’s excommunication….
From LUTHERAN WORLD INFORMATION
VATICAN City, Vatican/GENEVA, 16 December 2010 (LWI) – The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) President Bishop Dr Munib A. Younan has invited Pope Benedict XVI to work together with the Lutheran communion in realizing an ecumenically accountable commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation.
“For us there is joy in the liberating power of the gospel proclaimed afresh by the reformers, and we will celebrate that,” said Younan in a message today, when he led a seven-member delegation in a private audience with the Pope. He underlined the need to recognize both the damaging aspects of the Reformation and ecumenical progress.
“But we cannot achieve this ecumenical accountability on our own, without your help. Thus we invite you to work together with us in preparing this anniversary, so that in 2017 we are closer to sharing in the Bread of Life than we are today.”
Greeting the LWF delegation, Pope Benedict expressed gratitude for “the many significant fruits produced” by decades of bilateral discussions between Lutherans and Roman Catholics, saying it had been possible “slowly and patiently to remove barriers and to foster visible bonds of unity by means of theological dialogue and practical cooperation, especially at the level of local communities.” In the years leading up to the next Reformation anniversary, “Catholics and Lutherans are called to reflect anew on where our journey towards unity has led us and to implore the Lord’s guidance and help for the future,” he said.
The Pope pointed out that the signing of the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification (JDDJ), whose tenth anniversary was marked in 2009, “has proved a significant step along the difficult path towards re-establishing full unity among Christians and a stimulus to further ecumenical discussion.”
He reiterated his expectation that the close contacts and intensive dialogue which have characterized ecumenical relations between Catholics and Lutherans would continue to bear rich fruit.
Representing every LWF region, the delegation included also the General Secretary Rev. Martin Junge and regional vice presidents from Africa, Presiding Bishop Alex G. Malasusa (Tanzania); from Central Eastern Europe, Bishop Tamás Fabiny (Hungary); and from the Nordic region, Presiding Bishop Helga Haugland Byfuglien (Norway); and staff. Also present was Kurt Cardinal Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (PCPCU), and other Vatican staff.
In his statement, Younan reiterated the LWF’s commitment to “moving closer toward one another around this Table of the Lord, which Luther saw as the summa evangelii.” The LWF president pointed out that while it was important to “rejoice in each small step which brings us closer together, we do not want to be content with these steps. We remain strong in hope – both for the full visible unity of Christ’s Church and for the Eucharistic communion which is so crucial a manifestation of that unity.”
Younan presented to the Pope a gift from Bethlehem, a carving depicting the Last Supper. Referring to this image, he said, “Each of us can bear witness to the importance of this sacramental meal in nurturing our own Christian lives. Each of us also knows the yearning for the time when we will be able to celebrate this feast together,” said the LWF president.
Younan noted that the LWF had taken a significant step toward Christian reconciliation at its July 2010 Eleventh Assembly in Stuttgart, Germany, by asking forgiveness from Mennonites for the persecution of Anabaptists in the 16th century. In preparing for this act, he said, the LWF was mindful that this legacy was shared by other traditions, including Roman Catholics, who with other ecumenical guests stood in solemn solidarity when the action was pronounced at the Assembly.
“We believe that we took this action on behalf of the whole body of Christ. We pray that this spirit of repentance, reconciliation and renewal will continue to grow among us.”
Younan, who is head of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land, noted that Catholics and Lutherans share a vision for just peace in the Middle East and support a two-state solution with a shared Jerusalem. He thanked the Pope for his moral leadership in exposing the injustices and idolatries of the global financial crisis – also a concern shared by the LWF, notably in its advocacy against illegitimate debt. On both issues, he urged closer collaboration.
“Our witness will be stronger if we will work together on these problems. Thus we look forward to forging multiple cooperations with our Catholic sisters and brothers at all levels, locally as well as globally,” Younan said.
The LWF president noted that he and the General Secretary represent the new leadership of the global Lutheran communion. Younan was elected President at Stuttgart in July, while Junge began his term of office in November.
The audience with the Pope honors the extraordinary journey by the two churches in recent years, and is a sign of hope for their future relations, Younan said.
Lutherans continue to rejoice, he added, because of the ways the two churches have reached new degrees of theological understanding and agreement, noting in particular the landmark Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification.
“Within our own lifetimes, the climate of relations between Lutherans and Catholics has warmed dramatically – and this climate change has been for the good! Around the world our churches live in a new ecology of relationship.” Younan concluded. (915 words)
Additional texts are available at lutheranworld.org
From President Harrison’s blog. First President Harrison’s remarks, then the letter from Luther he commends to us.
This is an incredible letter. Every Christian ought have its choicest lines memorized. Indeed: “Christ dwells only in sinners.” Thanks be to God for that! Matt Harrison
To George Spenlein
Wittenberg, April 8, 1516
George Spenlein was an Augustinian friar in the monastery at Wittenberg who had recently been transferred to Memmingen. In this letter Luther is reporting on the disposal of some of Spenlein’s possessions. It gives an insight into Luther’s understanding of justification and its implication for the Christian life prior to his controversy with Rome.
Text in Latin: WA, Br 1, 35–36. The following translation, with minor changes, is by Theodore G. Tappert and is used by permission from Luther: Letters. LCC 18, 109–111. Published 1955, The Westminster Press.
To the godly and sincere Friar George Spenlein, Augustinian Eremite1 in the monastery at Memmingen, my dear friend in the Lord
Grace and peace to you from God the Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ
My dearest Friar George:
…Now I should like to know whether your soul, tired of its own righteousness, is learning to be revived by and to trust in the righteousness of Christ. For in our age the temptation to presumption besets many, especially those who try with all their might to be just and good without knowing the righteousness of God, which is most bountifully and freely given us in Christ. They try to do good of themselves in order that they might stand before God clothed in their own virtues and merits. But this is impossible. While you were here, you were one who held this opinion, or rather, error. So was I, and I am still fighting against the error without having conquered it as yet.
Therefore, my dear Friar, learn Christ and him crucified. Learn to praise him and, despairing of yourself, say, “Lord Jesus, you are my righteousness, just as I am your sin. You have taken upon yourself what is mine and have given to me what is yours. You have taken upon yourself what you were not and have given to me what I was not.” Beware of aspiring to such purity that you will not wish to be looked upon as a sinner, or to be one. For Christ dwells only in sinners. On this account he descended from heaven, where he dwelt among the righteous, to dwell among sinners. Meditate on this love of his and you will see his sweet consolation. For why was it necessary for him to die if we can obtain a good conscience by our works and afflictions? Accordingly you will find peace only in him and only when you despair of yourself and your own works. Besides, you will learn from him that just as he has received you, so he has made your sins his own and has made his righteousness yours.
If you firmly believe this as you ought (and he is damned who does not believe it), receive your untaught and hitherto erring brothers, patiently help them, make their sins yours, and, if you have any goodness, let it be theirs. Thus the Apostle teaches, “Receive one another as Christ also received you to the glory of God.” And again, “Have this mind among yourselves, which you have in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, [did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped], but emptied himself,” etc. Even so, if you seem to yourself to be better than they are, do not count it as booty, as if it were yours alone, but humble yourself, forget what you are and be as one of them in order that you may help them.
Cursed is the righteousness of the man who is unwilling to assist others on the ground that they are worse than he is, and who thinks of fleeing from and forsaking those whom he ought now to be helping with patience, prayer, and example. This would be burying the Lord’s talent and not paying what is due. If you are a lily and a rose of Christ, therefore, know that you will live among thorns. Only see to it that you will not become a thorn as a result of impatience, rash judgment, or secret pride. The rule of Christ is in the midst of his enemies, as the Psalm puts it. Why, then, do you imagine that you are among friends? Pray, therefore, for whatever you lack, kneeling before the face of the Lord Jesus. He will teach you all things. Only keep your eyes fixed on what he has done for you and for all men in order that you may learn what you should do for others. If he had desired to live only among good people and to die only for his friends, for whom, I ask you, would he have died or with whom would he ever have lived? Act accordingly, my dear Friar, and pray for me. The Lord be with you.
Farewell in the Lord.
From Wittenberg, April 8, 1516
AE vol. 48
My district president received this from President Harrison, and passed it along to us.
Statement by Matthew Harrison on the Acceptance of a Call to Serve as an Assistant Pastor
To: District Presidents of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (for distribution as they see fit)
From: Matthew Harrison, President of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod
Date: December 19, 2010
Grace and peace in Jesus, “the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls” (1 Peter 2:25)!
This morning, Sunday, December 19, 2010, I personally informed the pastor, elders and members of Village Lutheran Church, Ladue, Missouri, that I had accepted the congregation’s call to serve as their assistant pastor. The call was not acted upon hastily, or without significant consultation.
In providing you with the following information, I want to lay out for you a brief explanation of the personal and theological reasons why I am taking this path.
The constitution and bylaws of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod specifically allow the President of the Synod to hold such an office. The bylaws state: The President of the Synod shall be a full-‐time executive and shall serve as a voting member of the Board of Directors of the Synod. (a) He shall not be in charge of a congregation or hold a chair at any educational institution but may be called as an assistant pastor, provided such services do not interfere with his official duties as President. (3.3.1)
There are a number of reasons for this action. I shall only note a few items here.
With respect to the Synod’s national office:
• Though no President (or congregation) has acted on this privilege for many decades, in its wisdom the Synod recognizes that its President may be a called pastor at a local parish. This was long the practice of the Missouri Synod, and has been the practice of the Lutheran Church in general for most of its history.
• While those of us in national leadership have noted a lessening of local loyalty to the national church, we have less often acknowledged the local perception that the national office has distanced itself from congregations. Accepting this call is my own concrete affirmation of the 2 vital, in fact, most vital role of local congregations and pastors in our mission, mercy, and life together as a Synod (John 10:12-‐16).
• The new structure of the Synod greatly increases the CEO responsibilities of the President. It is more vital than ever that amidst the many tasks of the office, it be carried out pastorally, and with the church’s pastoral and missionary task firmly in focus and close at hand (1 Pet. 5:2).
• In this called, pastoral position, I am directly responsible to the senior pastor and board of elders of Village Lutheran for my preaching and teaching there. I believe it is healthy even (especially!) for the President of Synod to be directly accountable to a local congregation in this way, and to God himself for such a congregation (Heb. 13:17).
With respect to my particular person I note the following.
• St. Paul states, “The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task” (1 Tim. 3:1).
• In the core of my being, I am a pastor. I view life pastorally. I view the mission of the church pastorally (Jer. 3:15). My work at LCMS World Relief and Human Care moved the church’s work of mercy to a pastoral model, closely connecting care with local altars, fonts, and pulpits worldwide.
• I am energized by and find great joy in preaching, teaching, and pastoral visitation (2 Cor. 1:24).
• A called pastoral relationship with a local congregation allows me and my family to be cared for by a group of Christians in a way that would otherwise not occur (Gal. 6:6). Village Ladue recognizes this care as a vocation of service to the Synod.
• My two boys are in high school. Their time at home is short. For ten years they have rarely heard me preach or teach. I desire to preach to my own children in these vital years of their Christian formation. As Synod President I could well be absent every weekend. For the sake of my wife and boys at this stage of our lives, travel must be reasonably limited. Wonderful things may be accomplished for the Missouri Synod over the next number of years, but (God help me) not at the expense of the faith of my own family (Eph. 5:25; 1 Tim. 3:4).
The bylaw states that the president “may be called as an assistant pastor, provided such services do not interfere with his official duties as President.” I note the following:
• This called pastoral position involves preaching once every month or two; teaching the occasional Sunday Bible study; and visiting a handful of shut- ins each month (1 Tim. 5:17; Matt. 25:36). It involves no meetings and no administrative duties. I shall receive from this position no compensation, or even reimbursement for mileage. This call is a gift. My service shall be a gift (1 Thess. 2:9). This call is not a so-‐called “status call”—a call merely for the purpose of an ordained man being able to remain on the LCMS roster.
• My clear priority is and has to be the called position of Synod President, which is more than full-‐time (Luke 17:10; 1 Cor. 15:58).
With respect to district presidents:
• While I have chosen to act upon a matter of freedom, not all district presidents have such freedom in their respective district constitutions, nor are their respective circumstances the same. I will guard each district president’s freedom, right, and responsibility to act as he and his district believe is best for his particular circumstances (2 Cor. 3:17; Gal. 5:13). Their office alone makes them worthy of our deepest love, support, and continual prayer (2 Cor. 11:28).
Pray for us, for we are sure that we have a clear conscience, desiring to act honorably in all things. . . . Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen (Hebrews 13:18-21).
Pastor Matthew Harrison
To make an altar of earth for the Lord is to place our hope in the incarnation of the Mediator. Our gift is accepted by God when, on this altar, our humility rests whatever it does upon faith in the Lord’s incarnation. We place the gift we offer on an altar made of earth if we base all our actions on faith in the Lord’s incarnation.
Paterius, Exposition of the Old and New Testament, Exodus 30.5 (PL 79:735); From: Joseph T. Lienhard and Ronnie J. Rombs, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture OT 3., 110 (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 2001).