About This Blog and the Painting Used in the Banner

January 30th, 2014 Leave a comment Go to comments

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Please feel free to send e-mail to me at BOC1580@gmail.com

About this Blog Site
Welcome to my blog site. I’m a Lutheran pastor, serving in The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. I’m the Publisher at Concordia Publishing House, where I’m also the Executive Director of our Editorial Department. My interests include fine art, classical music, literature, history, digital photography, and the shooting sports, oh, and coffee, good coffee. I also enjoy the St. Louis Cardinals, particularly when they win. Cyberbrethren is mainly about promoting, advancing, and advocating for, historic, confessional Lutheranism, as it is defined by the Book of Concord, which you can read online at bookofconcord.org. I do this by interacting with modern trends, culture and issues. It is a rather eclectic blog site, so look around a while and you’ll see the kinds of topics and issues that catch my attention the most frequently. I promote resources published by Concordia Publishing House, the world’s largest and oldest continually operating Lutheran publishing company. The content on this blog site does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Concordia Publishing House or The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. It may not reflect your opinion either, but thanks for reading anyway!

Comment Policy
I regard comments to this blog site to be like letters to the editor of a newspaper or magazine. They are subject to editing or deletion, at my discretion. Your best chance of having a comment posted is when you sign it, keep it short, and conduct yourself in a civil manner. Simply put, comments that make a positive and/or interesting contribution to the post’s topic are much more likely to be be posted. Using a real name when commenting is also encouraged.

Content Sources and Copyrights
Materials on the church year, feasts, festivals or commemorations, unless otherwise noted, are drawn from free resources found on LCMS.ORG. I try to reference other materials in the posts proper. If you find something interesting on Cyberbrethren, feel free to share it.

A Biographical Sketch
Rev. Paul T. McCain, was born and raised in Pensacola, Florida, the son of Lutheran teachers. He received an excellent “old school” education at Redeemer Lutheran School, then went on to attend Pensacola Catholic High School, where, as a Lutheran, he was awarded “Religion Student of the Year” in both his junior and senior years. He graduated from Concordia University, Chicago, with a B.A. in Biblical Languages and History, becoming member of Phi Alpha Theta national history honor society. From university, he entered Concordia Theological Seminary, receiving his Masters of Divinity Degree in 1988. He stayed on two extra years, the first as a graduate assistant in Systematic Theology, and the second, as an Instructor of Systematic Theology. His additional two years of graduate theological coursework included concentrations in Reformation history and theology.

While at Concordia Theological Seminary, he was privileged to work closely with Dr. Robert Preus on the launch of the Confessional Lutheran Dogmatics series, for which he served as managing editor. He became the managing editor for the International Lutheran Foundation for Confessional Lutheran Research, publishing their quarterly newsletter. He was instrumental in founding two Lutheran journals: LOGIA: A Journal of Lutheran Theology and Luther Digest, an annual survey and summary of worldwide Luther research.

Rev. McCain was assigned to serve as the pastor of St. Paul Lutheran Church, in Waverly, Iowa, where he was ordained into the Office of the Holy Ministry, on Pentecost Sunday, 1990. He delighted in the joys and challenges of ministry in a rural and small congregation. He was called to serve as Assistant to the President of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod in 1992. He completed his service in this role in 2001, and served as Interim Director of Concordia Historical Institute. He was called to serve at Concordia Publishing House as its Interim President and CEO, a position he filled until 2006, when he became Publisher at CPH, and also Executive Director of the Editorial Division, the position he presently holds.

His numerous publications include articles for WORLD Magazine, FIRST THINGS, The Lutheran Witness, Concordia Theological Quarterly, LOGIA: A Journal of Lutheran Theology, Modern Reformation magazine, and various other newspapers and periodicals. He is the general editor of Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions-A Reader’s Edition of the Book of Concord, and a contributor to The Lutheran Study Bible. He has edited and contributed to several essay and Festschrift collections. He serves as an editor of the quarterly devotional publication Portals of Prayer and has contributed to Teacher’s Interaction a resource for volunteer parish teachers. He is a regular guest on the Lutheran talk radio show Issues, Etc. and a frequent guest preacher and conference speaker.

He and his wife live in St. Louis and are the parents of three children. They own a dog, Sunny, and a cat, Rose, permits them to live at her house.

About the Painting
To this day, the painting that stands over the altar at the St. Peter and Paul Church in Weimar, Germany, glows with a radiance that takes the viewer’s breath away. It is the most remarkable example of the uniquely Lutheran use of altar paintings to confess the Gospel rediscovery in the Sixteenth Century Reformation. Below the painting you will find an explanation, a guided-tour of the painting. Note: For a very large version of this painting, click on the image.

CranachWeimarAltar

“A picture is worth a thousand words.” This is certainly true of the centre panel of the altar painting in the church of Sts Peters and Paul, Weimar, Germany. It was begun by Lucas Cranach (1472-1553) and was completed by his son, also of the same name, in 1555. (To distinguish them, they are called Lucas Cranach the Elder and Lucas Cranach the Younger.)

The heart of the 16th century Reformation and indeed of the Christian faith, is the doctrine of justification by faith alone in Christ. This is how Luther expresses it in part 2 of the Smalcald Articles.

“The first and chief article is this, that Jesus Christ, our God and Lord, “was put to death for our trespasses and raised again for our justification” (Rom 4:25). He alone is “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). “God has laid upon him the iniquities of us all” (Isa.53:6). Moreover, “all have sinned,” and “they are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, by his blood” (Rom. 3:23-25).

Inasmuch as this must be believed and cannot be obtained or apprehended by any work, law, or merit, it is clear and certain that such faith alone justifies us, as St Paul says in Romans 3, “For we hold that a man is justified by faith apart from works of law” (Rom. 3:28), and again, “that he [God] himself is righteous and that he justifies him who has faith in Jesus” (Rom. 3:26).

If the doctrine of justification is to be properly taught, law and gospel must be properly distinguished. The Formula of Concord of 1577 says (Article 5),

“We must … observe this distinction with particular diligence lest we confuse the two doctrines and change the Gospel into law. This would darken the merit of Christ and rob disturbed consciences of the comfort which they would otherwise have in the holy Gospel …”

That Lucas Cranach clearly understood the central teaching of the Lutheran reformation and the proper distinction between Law and Gospel is illustrated by his altar painting at Weimar.

In the centre background, Moses is shown teaching the ten commandments to the Old Testament prophets. They are standing on a circle of barren path, along with a figure representative of all human beings who are under the law’s condemnation. Man is shown here being chased into the fires of hell by death (pictured as a skeleton holding a spear) and the devil (in the form of a monster wielding a club). The prophets taught, as did Moses, “Cursed be anyone who does not confirm the words of this law by doing them” (Deut. 27:26 ESV, compare Jer. 11:13). Yet it’s not only our actual sins that condemn us, but also the prior sin that we inherit from our parents (original sin). To quote the Smalcald Articles once again,

“Here we must confess what St Paul says in Rom. 5:12, namely, that sin had its origin in one man, Adam, through whose disobedience all men were made sinners and became subject to death and the devil. … The fruits of this sin are all the subsequent evil deeds which are forbidden in the Ten Commandments …”

The good news is that God in mercy and compassion saves all who put their trust in His Son. When the people of Israel in the wilderness sinned and were bitten by snakes, God provided a way of escape that prefigured His Son’s death on a cross. All the Israelites had to do to be saved was look at the snake mounted on a pole (Num. 21:4-9). In Cranach’s painting, this is shown in the background on the painting’s left.

Directly in front, Martin Luther is standing with open Bible in hand. His feet and hands are positioned like those of Moses. His message, however, is one of gospel, not law. On his face is a look of steadfastness and serene confidence. He stands on lush grass in which flowers grow, unlike the bare, stony ground on which Moses stands. Of three passages written in German on the open Bible, the third one reads, “Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so also must the Son of man be lifted up, so that all [who believe] in [him may have eternal life]” (Jn 3:14).

Dominating the painting is Christ on a cross. The amazing message of the Gospel is that by his death, Christ takes away the world’s sin. The message written in Latin on the transparent banner held by the lamb in the centre foreground declares that Jesus is “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn 1:29). His outstretched arms and generous loincloth are also reminders that He is the world’s Saviour. This was John the Baptist’s message, and John is shown standing underneath the crucified Christ on His left side. With right hand pointing up at Christ on the cross and left hand pointing at the lamb, John is shown proclaiming the meaning of Jesus’ death to Lucas Cranach, the painter. Cranach represents all who believe. A stream of blood from Christ’s pierced side splashes on to this head. It is as the first verse on Luther’s Bible says, “The blood of Jesus Christ purifies us from all sin” (1 Jn 1:7). Therefore like Luther, Cranach also stands confidently.

There is another verse on the open Bible, to which Luther’s finger points directly. It reads, “Therefore let us approach the seat of grace with joyousness, so that we may receive mercy within and find grace in the time when help is needed” (Heb. 4:16). Such approach is possible because Jesus is our victorious high priest. Having paid for sin, He has defeated death and the devil and now lives to intercede for us. Jesus is shown on the painting’s right as the risen One, youthful and full of life, standing on death and the devil, with the staff of his victory flag pushed in the monster’s throat. His gold-edged cloak flows toward the lamb’s banner and the cross. As a result it’s actually both banner and cloak that bear the words, “the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world”.

Believe in God; believe also in me,” the Lord says (Jn 14:1). From this painting His eyes meet ours, inviting us to believe in Him. The other set of eyes that meet ours belong to Cranach, the painter. His feet face in the direction of Christ. But he has turned from his adoration of Christ to look at us also, inviting us to believe and be saved along with him.

Article 4 of the Augsburg Confession expresses the heart of Lutheran teaching this way:

“[W]e receive forgiveness of sin and become righteous before God by grace, for Christ’s sake, through faith, when we believe that Christ suffered for us and that for his sake our sin is forgiven and righteousness and eternal life are given to us.”

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:23). This, in summary, is the message of the Lutheran reformation and of its foremost artists, Lucas Cranach the Elder and the Younger.

–Pastor David Buck

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  1. Geno
    July 9th, 2011 at 02:16 | #1

    Paul,Just recieved this from my Pastor..Good job.Looking to have some “Bumper Stickers” made of “Verbum Domini Manet in aeternum”.Do you know the original “Colors” of the written Motto……patches….etc ?
    Called CPH ,months ago and no one seems to know.

  2. John McCain
    September 23rd, 2011 at 10:50 | #2

    @Geno

    It would seem that, in order to get an idea for the colors desired for an accurate reproduction of the insignia, one would have to study the favored colors of Frederich the Wise and his successors. Otherwise, I would simply use a white background with black text.

    “The initials V. D. M. A., standing for their motto “Verbum Dei Manet in Aeternum” (the Word of God abideth forever), were to be read upon their coat of arms, upon their houses, and upon the livery of their servants.”

    Luther-album: A precursor of the fourth centennial celebration in memory of the nailing of the 95 theses upon the door of the castle church at Wittenberg on October 31st, 1517, by Dr. Martin Luther (Pg. 103)

    “The coins, medals, flags, and guns of the Smalcaldic League all bore the most famous reformation slogan [Verbum Dei Manet in Aeternum].”

    Harvesting Martin Luther’s reflections on theology, ethics, and the church, by Timothy J. Wengert

    “The motto is based on 1 Peter 1:24-25. It first appeared in the court of Frederick the Wise in 1522. He had it sewn onto the right sleeve of the court’s official clothing, which was worn by prince and servant alike. It was used by Frederick’s successors, his brother John the Steadfast, and his nephew John Frederick the Magnanimous. It became the official motto of the Smalcaldic League and was used on flags, banners, swords, and uniforms as a symbol of the unity of the Lutheran laity who struggled to defend their beliefs, communities, families and lives against those who were intent on destroying them.”
    Book of Concord (2005)

  3. Dennis
    October 3rd, 2011 at 18:42 | #3

    Hello!

    My video, “Shooting at a steel plate rack,” was embedded to your website, apparently in June of 2011. I just came across it on my Youtube page (24learjet). I’ve never had a video embedded before. I’m a Christian and my wife, of 30 years, is Lutheran. We were married in a Lutheran church. I grew up in the Church of Christ. Could you give me a link of where the video is on your blog? I’m just curious!
    Thanks so much for your time!

    Dennis

  4. Tim Klein
    October 8th, 2011 at 01:49 | #4

    Marty Haugen query

    Greetings from south Australia.

    Thank you for your blog. I receive ti regularly and glean some real treasures.

    Recently you sent a bog that had a reference to a song series by Marty Haugen.

    Unfortunately I was away at the time, accessing my email by iPhone, and lost it somewhere in cyber space.

    Would you mind resending that information to tim.klein@lca.org.au

    Thank you and god bless you heaps.

    Tim Klein
    (Pastor at Berri Lutheran)

    • October 8th, 2011 at 05:21 | #5

      Hi Tim, sorry, I don’t remember that post, but you can use the Google search functionality on the blog site to look around for it.

  5. February 18th, 2012 at 17:24 | #6

    Thanks for visiting Fr. Orthohippo and linking to An Historical Adam? I am always glad to encounter confessional fellow Christians.

    Even though a lapsed (then) LCA pastor who ended up a retired Anglican priest, Missionary Society of St. John, I still thank you for your continuing work at Concordia Publishing House. CPH remains a wonderful source site.

    LC-MS remains confessional and “orthodox” as a Biblical witness. Thank God! I wish there were more of us around.

  6. Doug Lyren
    March 11th, 2012 at 19:16 | #7

    Hello, I saw the post about the complete series of “The People’s Bible Commentary” for the special price of $150.00. When I tried to order it the order price came to $610. Is it still available for $150.00?

  7. April 26th, 2012 at 11:12 | #9

    Paul, I read your website each and always enjoy your articles. Thank you. If I remember correctly you recently purchased a 1580 copy of B of C. Could I inquire about what they are worth/cost in decent shape and how available they are? Thanks,

    Mark Bangert
    Pastor
    Immanuel Lutheran Church
    Washington, MO

    • April 26th, 2012 at 12:18 | #10

      Well, yes, they are available, but….hard to find. Indeed, a Dresden 1580 is very hard to find, and if it is in mint condition, it can go for as much as $12,000, and more beat up and damaged, the price drops, rapidly, to under $1,000 in some cases.

  8. Julius Karl Steiger
    May 18th, 2012 at 17:27 | #11

    Hello !
    I have just recently found this blog and comment site. It was emailed to me from our church in Caldwell.
    My wife Donna and I are members of Grace Lutheran Church ( Lutheran Missouri Synod) in Caldwell, Idaho. We moved from Buhl, Idaho in 2011 where we were members of St John Lutheran ( Missouri Synod) church.
    I write articles concerned with inspirational issues that church members enjoy reading.
    I try to aim the contents of my articles towards clarifications of difficult passages or readings found in the bible. The articles are published in the monthly bulletins .

    I would enjoy commenting on your site , if that’s acceptable ?
    Please advise !

    Julius Steiger

  9. May 25th, 2012 at 22:38 | #13

    “He received an excellent “old school” education at Redeemer Lutheran School, then went on to attend Pensacola Catholic High School, where, as a Lutheran, he was awarded “Religion Student of the Year” in both his junior and senior years. ”

    Your bio is very impressive. Sounds ironic, though, in a Cathokic HS-how were you able to stay a Lutheran in that influence?

  10. Kathy
    September 24th, 2012 at 06:10 | #14

    Since you’re at CPH…I borrowed a friend’s Lutheran Study Bible to “check it out.” We both agreed that the pages are thin, similar to leather bound Bibles. Any chance that a new printed edition is coming soon, with heavier pages?

    • September 24th, 2012 at 07:56 | #15

      We offer a larger print edition with heavier paper. The paper is as thin as it is to accomodate such a large Bible within a reasonably sized book. Any heavier in the regular edition and the book would be even more unwieldy.

  11. Kathy
    September 24th, 2012 at 08:17 | #16

    Thanks, that’s what we were thinking – heavier paper would make the book even bigger. Guess I’ll go ahead and place my order!

  12. shelly satran
    October 25th, 2012 at 13:51 | #17

    How do I order a copy of the new Martin Luther graphic novel? I see on the blog it sees we are ready for your order, but not how to order. Thanks!

  13. Jack K
    November 13th, 2012 at 14:55 | #19

    Hi, Rev. McCain.

    I have been trying to get the Kindle Edition of “Law and Gospel: How to Read and Apply the Bible” on Amazon. I get a message that the book is under review and that they’re working with the publisher to fix the problems. Will this title be available on Kindle in the near future?

    Thanks!

    Jack

    • November 13th, 2012 at 17:09 | #20

      I’m sure it will be. Amazon is really weird about things like this. They never inform us when they take a book “down” for sale as Kindle. And their standard for doing so is equally weird.

  14. December 10th, 2012 at 07:47 | #21

    If I had known then what I know now, I would have never subscribed to the series and would have ordered the Gospel commentaries (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) when they were published. When will the balance of Matthew not to mention Mark and John, be published? Aren’t the authors under some kind of deadline? By the time they are published, I’ll probably be retired. Tell Weinrich and whoever else agreed to write these commentaries to get on the ball or get someone else. Twelve years is long enough. Caveat emptor.

    • December 10th, 2012 at 09:46 | #22

      Lee, too much coffee this morning??

      : )

      I encourage you to write to the authors of the volumes you are looking for to offer them your appreciation for their work and encouragement to complete it. You are free at any time to cancel your subscription, but I hope you do not. They are stellar volumes to have, no matter what book of the Bible you are working on at the moment.

  15. December 10th, 2012 at 07:56 | #23

    While I”m still on my soapbox, why does Treasury for Daily Prayer begin at Ash Wednesday, the Church Year begins First Sunday in Advent, and Year in Old Testament Meditations and New Testament Mediations begin with the calendar year? Would it not have been more conducive to mediation and prayer to be on the same page?

    • December 10th, 2012 at 09:45 | #24

      This is explained in the introduction of Treasury of Daily Prayer.

  16. December 11th, 2012 at 16:41 | #25

    I get grouchy when I don’t get enough coffee. Luke is an outstanding commentary, and I was expecting Matthew, Mark, and John to follow. Glad to see that the balance of Matthew, Mark, and Romans will be coming soon. I read the introduction to Treasury but I still think if you were aiming for one comprehensive devotion source it would have been easier to start in Advent.
    Blessings,
    Lee

  17. August 11th, 2013 at 06:26 | #26

    Paul,

    Just listened to your Issues, Etc. interview on concupiscence. Great job!

  18. rachel
    September 25th, 2013 at 19:44 | #28

    Hi! I really love the artwork on your entry for Noah. I would like to use it for our church as we reflect on artworks. Could you please tell me the name of the artist and/or where I can find it on the internet? I do not see a credit for that piece.
    Thanks!!
    Rachel

  19. January 8th, 2014 at 20:41 | #29

    I appreciated Pastor Buck’s explanation of the Cranach painting. In a less solemn setting, Lucas Cranach the Elder and Martin Luther appear together as characters in my historical novel “Kingdom of the Birds,” which is told from the point of view of the boy assigned to serve the mysterious knight in the Wartburg Castle.

  1. December 16th, 2009 at 07:21 | #1
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