Commemoration of St. Silas: Fellow Worker of St. Peter and St. Paul

February 10th, 2014 2 comments

Saint Paul chose Silas, a leader in the church at Jerusalem, to accompany him on his second missionary journey from Antioch to Asia Minor and Macedonia (Acts 15:40). Silas, also known as Silvanus, was imprisoned with Paul in Philippi (Acts 16:16-40) and experienced the riots in Thessalonica (Acts 17:1-9) and Berea (Acts 17:10-15). They were apart for some length of time, after which he rejoined Paul in Corinth (Acts 18:1-5). Apparently, he remained there for an extended period. One account stands out for most readers of the New Testament. The time Paul and Silas shared in the Philippian prison gave them a special opportunity to proclaim the Gospel. God freed their bonds during an earthquake but they refuse to escape and instead saved their jailer from committing suicide because of his responsibility for them. The Lord used these two and the surrounding events to witness to the jailer about His love and forgiveness through Christ Jesus. Working through the Gospel, the Holy Spirit brought him and his household to faith in Jesus and led them to be baptized.

We pray:

Almighty and Everlasting God, Your servant Silas preached the Gospel alongside the apostles Peter and Paul to the peoples of Asia Minor, Greece, and Macedonia. We give You thanks for raising up in this and ever land evangelists and heralds of Your kingdom, that the Church may continue to proclaim the unsearchable riches of our Savior, Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

The Transfiguration of Our Lord

February 9th, 2014 Comments off

In Lutheran congregations that use the historic lectionary, this Sunday is the observation of the Transfiguration of Our Lord, because it is the last Sunday in the Epiphany season. On the three following Sundays we will be observing  “pre-Lent,” more on that later this week. At the end of this post, you can read details about  the how/why Transfiguration came to be observed at this time in the Epiphany season. Because this observance was not in place during Luther’s lifetime or territory, nor Bach’s a couple hundred years later, I’m afraid I do not have a Luther sermon or Bach Cantata to share with you this day. But I know you will appreciate the sermon for Transfiguration I am able to share here.

The Appointed Readings for Today

The Introit: Ps. 84:1–2a, 4, 10–11; antiphon: Ps. 77:18
The Old Testament Lesson: Ex. 34:29–35
The Psalter: Psalm 2 (antiphon v. 7)
The Epistle Lesson: 2 Peter 1:16–21
The Gospel Lesson: Matt. 17:1–9
The Gradual: Ps. 45:2a, 110:1
The Verse: Ps. 96:2–3

On this day the appointed readings from Scriptures focus our hearts and minds on the great miracle of our Lord’s transfiguration, when he allowed his disciples a glimpse of the glory that is His eternally as the Second Person of the Most Holy and Blessed Trinity, the Son of God. This glimpse of glory was important, for from the mount of Transfiguration, they went back down and our Lord set His face toward Jerusalem, where He would offer, and be offered up, as the atoning sacrifice for the of the world. The Lord appeared to Moses in the light of the burning bush (Ex. 3:1–14). Later Moses’ face would shine with the light of God’s glory when he came down from Mount Sinai (Ex. 34:29–35). At the Transfiguration, Moses and Elijah appeared with the One who is the Light of Light Himself (Matt. 17:1–9). Jesus’ glory as God shines with brilliant splendor in and through His human nature. By this epiphany, our Lord confirmed the prophetic word (2 Pet. 1:16–21), revealing that He is the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets. He manifested His majesty as the eternal Son of the Father, and He wonderfully foreshowed our adoption as sons (Collect). We who have been baptized into Christ’s body are given a glimpse of the glory that we will share with Him in the resurrection on the Last Day. Source for some of these notes: LCMS Commission on Worship.

Read more…

What’s a Gesima? The Church Prepares for Lent

February 7th, 2014 14 comments

In the traditional liturgical Church Year, this Sunday and the two following are known as “gesima” Sundays, and the three Sunday period we are now in, is known as pre-Lent. What is the meaning of “gesima” and why a three week “pre-Lent.” Here’s a great article by my friend Terry Maher explaining what’s going on at this point in the historic Church Year.

There’s been some joyous events these last few weeks — the birth of Jesus, his naming and circumcision, the first Gentiles to find him, and his baptism. On various dates and combinations from place to place through the ages, the Christian Church has offered its members celebrations of these things in its church year.

But a change is coming, one already present amid the joy. We know as we celebrate his birth that he was born for us so he could die for us. We know as his blood was spilled in circumcision, putting him under the Law, his blood would be spilled on the Cross, to redeem us from under the Law. We saw that the Gentiles who found him had to return by a different way, as the way of all who find him is different afterward. And after his baptism, Jesus will spend forty days in the desert before beginning his public ministry, wherein he will be tempted to make himself into the various false Messiahs into which Man makes him anyway so often. We will soon imitate those forty days for our own devotion with the season of Lent, on the way to the Cross, without which Easter is but another metaphor or myth. A change is coming.

So the church provides a transitional time between the first and second of its three great seasons, as the joyous events from preparing for his birth to his baptism, Advent-Christmas-Circumcision-Naming-Manifestation-Baptism, now turn to the literally deadly serious reason why they happened, sin and our redemption from sin. Just like with the Christmas related season, this has taken various forms in various places and times but within the same general pattern, and the universal practice of the Christian Church since ancient times (well, until 1960s Rome messed with it, but we’ll get to that) has been to provide a transition from the beginnings of Jesus’ earthly life to the end of it.

So, Septuagesima is 70 Days, Sexagesima is 60 Days, Quinqagesima is 50 Days. Simple. Right? Sure…but…what are all these “gesimas” about, pronounced “jeh-see-mah,” emphasis on first syllable. Glad you asked.

Septuagesima is simply another word for Seventy Days, that’s all. The modern English word is derived from Middle English in turn from Old French in turn from the actual Late Latin word septuagesima meaning seventieth day. The septua- part is the same prefix for seven or multiples by ten of seven seen in other English words — septet, an ensemble of seven; septuagenarian, someone in his 70s; the Septuagint, the translation into Greek of the Hebrew Scriptures by seventy scholars — and the -gesima part derives from the Latin for days, dies.

With the Seventieth Day, or Septuagesima, the change is apparent on various levels. The white vestments of Christmastime joy give way to purple or violet of repentance; the joyful exclamation Alleluia and other joyful expressions like the Te Deum and the Gloria (there ain’t no This Is The Feast) are not used, and the readings, especially if one follows the hours of prayer, the Divine Office, begin their way through the sorry history of Man from his creation and fall on, which the Holy Saturday liturgy will recapitulate.

On Septuagesima itself, the Gospel reading is Matthew 20:1-16, the story of the workers in the vineyard, wherein we see Man the same as from the start in Eden, trying to impose his ideas of what is right on to God’s, this time arguing over whether the same wage is fair for those who worked all day, those hired at the last, and everyone in between, as if we deserved anything from God and it were not his to give and not ours to presume or demand anyway. So we argue with God and each other over the denarius rather than taking in in gratitude from him who owed us nothing! Kind of the whole problem in a nutshell.

The Eastern Church uses the following on its five Sundays in the Pre Lenten Season: 1) the story of Zacchaeus, 2) the Publican and the Pharisee, 3) the Prodigal Son, 4) the Last Judgement, and 5) the Sunday of Forgiveness.

The world, which has ever had its early Spring celebrations, has in many lands timed them on Lent, so pre-Lent attains a nature as opposite from its Christian meaning as Advent has become the gift buying and partying season before Christmas. At the beginning of Lent, fasting in some form is observed, usually involving abstaining from meat, and the most likely origin of the the name for the worldly face of all this, carnival, is a farewell to meat (flesh), from the Latin root carne- for meat or flesh (as in carnivore) and vale, good-bye (as in valedictory). In most but not all places, Septuagesima is the start of carnival season, to end just before Lent starts on Ash Wednesday. As the church prepares for the penitential season of Lent the world enjoys the flesh, in all senses of the word.

In the Western Church, in most denominations that follow a liturgical calendar, the transitional pre-Lenten period has been abolished altogether! And not only is this important transition dropped, the period of time it formerly took is simply counted as Ordinary Time. That would be bad enough if ordinary here meant what ordinary ordinarily means. Ordinary here means the literal meaning of ordinary, which is, something that has no particular name or identity but is simply numbered. So in the novus ordo and the various adaptations of it, this significant time of transition from the Christmas cyle to the Easter cyle simply ceases to exist, in numbered anonymity, in the face of nearly two millennia of Christian observance in varying forms, and the continuing observance of those who do not follow suit. Well, when you’re the Whore of Babylon, you do stuff like that, maybe even have to do stuff like that. Not a lead for the church of Christ to follow.

Actually, at first in English Lent itself followed the Gesima pattern and was called Quadragesima, meaning forty days, the duration of Lent in the West, which was also the name of the first Sunday in Lent, a word that then just meant Spring. This still survives in other languages. For example in Spanish the word is Cuaresma for Lent. No word yet on whether Rome can get languages like Spanish to quit calling Lent after a pattern it has abolished. The world, though, seems securely attached to its traditions; Carnival season will endure though Pre-Lent is done in. Who knows? Maybe the next council can get Ash Wednesday moved to the Sunday before Ash Wednesday, for “pastoral reasons” of course, like they jacked around the date of Epiphany, or move it to the Monday after and call it reclaiming our ancient Greek roots.

The Eastern Church still has its Pre Lenten Season.

In the Western Church, the earliest Septuagesima can fall is 18 January and the latest 22 February. This year, 2009, it’s 8 February. Join the Christian Church, East or West, in this transition, whatever your church body may have chosen to do, as we turn to the preparation for Lent, the observance of that for which he whose birth we recently celebrated came to die and then rise again, and the Easter and Pentecost joy to follow in anticipation of the eternal joy of heaven!

We start with learning from the workers in the vineyard not to haggle over the denarius but understand whose it is and that it is a gift, or, from the call of Jesus to Zacchaeus, who collected taxes for the foreign oppressors, that he doesn’t have to climb a tree to see him, that he is coming to his very house — which btw produced more grumbling about what is right and just — after which Zacchaeus repented and made restitution to his brethren. The Son of Man has indeed come to seek and save the lost — don’t worry about being seeker-sensitive, HE is the seeker — whether that be those who cast aside their own people for power or those who are idle because they are not hired, as we all seek our own gain first by nature and are all “unemployable” before the justice of God, who shows us mercy instead in Christ Whom He has sent.

Here are the readings for the three Sundays of Gesimatide. It has been noted that the three correspond with the three “solas” of the Lutheran Reformation.

Septuagesima Sunday, “70 Days”.

Introit.
Psalm 18:5,6,7. Verse Psalm 18:2,3.
Collect.
O Lord, we beseech Thee favourably to hear the prayers of Thy people that we, who are justly punished for our offences, may be mercifully delivered by The goodness, for the glory of Thy name, through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Our Saviour, who liveth etc.
Epistle.
1 Cor 9:24 – 10:5.
Gospel.
Matthew 20:1-16. The Workers in the Vinyard. Sola gratia, by grace alone.

Sexagesima Sunday, “60 Days”.

Introit.
Psalm 44:23-26. Verse Psalm 44:2.
Collect.
O God, who seest that we put not our trust in anything that we do, mercifully grant that by Thy power we may be defended against all adversity, through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Our Lord, who liveth etc.
Epistle.
2 Cor 11:19 – 12.9
Gospel.
Luke 8:4-15. The Sower and the Seed. Sola scriptura, by scripture alone.

Quinquagesima Sunday, “50 Days”.

Introit.
Psalm 31:3,4. Verse Psalm 31:1.
Collect.
O Lord, we beseech Thee, mercifully hear our prayers and, having set us free from the bonds of sin, defend us from all evil, through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Our Lord, who liveth etc.
Epistle.
1 Cor 13:1-13.
Gospel.
Luke 18:31-43. Healing the Blind Man. Sola fide, by faith alone.

CPH Spring Catalog Sale is Live!

February 6th, 2014 Comments off

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Folks, don’t miss out on great sale pricing on essential Lutheran resources and gifts for a wide variety of occasions, including confirmation, graduation, etc.

Spring Catalog Sale.

Here’s a link to the various items in the catalog. Orders of at least $79, from the Spring catalog, receive free shipping.

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Commemoration of Jacob (Israel): Patriarch

February 5th, 2014 1 comment

Today we remember and thank God for Jacob, the Patriarch. Jacob was the third of the three great Hebrews given the title of patriarch, following his grandfather Abraham and his father Isaac. Jacob was the younger of the twin sons of Isaac and Rebekah. He received his name because before birth he gripped his brother Esau’s heel, seeming even then to be struggling for supremacy (Jacob can mean “He grasps the heel” or “he cheats”). After wrestling with the Angel of the Lord, Jacob, who certainly had lived up to the name of “Deceiver,” was renamed Israel, which means “he strives with God” (Genesis 25:26; 32:28). His family life was filled with trouble, much of it caused by his acts of deception toward his father and his brother Esau and his parental favoritism toward his son Joseph (commemorated on 31 March). He spent many of his later years grieving over the death of his beloved wife Rachel and the presumed death of Joseph, who had been appointed by the Egyptian Pharaoh to be in charge of food distribution during a time of famine in the land. Late in life, as he was blessing his sons, Jacob uttered God’s prophetic promise that the Messiah would come through the line of his fourth son, Judah (Genesis 49:8-12).

Source.

The Purification of Mary and the Presentation of Our Lord in the Temple

February 2nd, 2014 8 comments

It comes as a surprise to some of our fellow Christians that a number of the traditional Marian Festivals were preserved and retained in historic Lutheranism. It is interesting however to note how they changed from their former focus entirely on Mary, and instead, focused on Christ, since whatever is Biblically associated with Mary, is precisely because of Jesus. This day, in particular, effectively brings to an end our observation of the great events of Christmas and Epiphany, and appropriately, gives us to ponder a somewhat obscure event in our Lord’s life, the occasion of his mother’s purification according to Old Testament law and His presentation in the Temple. The beautiful song of Simeon is featured in the readings these days. I encourage you to pay particularly close attention to the lovely Bach Motet based on the words of Simeon, which he composed early in his career for the funeral of the daughter of one of the pastors in Muhlhausen, where Bach was working at the time. The Cantata is titled God’s Time is Always the Best Time. I’ve put it in the extended entry, with the performance first, followed by the words in German and English.

The Presentation of Our Lord at the Temple, one of the Christological feasts of the Christian Church, is Scripture’s final infancy narrative concerning Jesus. After the Presentation, the Bible says nothing more about Him until His twelfth year.

Many liturgical calendars name this the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary, emphasizing its Marian connection. Still another term used is Candlemas, drawing the name from the tradition of blessing the coming year’s church candles on this day.

Saint Luke is the only one of the Evangelists to describe the event (see Luke 2:22-40), something likely unfamiliar to most of his Gentile readers. According to the Gospel, Mary and Joseph took the Baby to the Temple in Jerusalem forty days after his birth to consecrate Jesus to God and to complete the ritual purification of Mary, both because of the command of God’s Law (Exodus 13:1-2, 11-16; Leviticus 12).

Upon entering the temple, the family encountered the devout and holy Simeon. Luke records that he was promised that “he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. (Luke 2:26)” Simeon took Jesus into his arms, prayed the prayer that would become known as the Nunc Dimittis, or Canticle of Simeon, blessed the parents, and prophesied regarding Jesus and Mary.

The prophetess Anna (2:36-38) was also in the temple. She, too, offered prayers and praise to God for sending the Savior.

In the Western liturgical calendar, the Presentation of Our Lord falls on 2 February because this is forty days after Christmas, the celebration of His birth. It is the last festival determined by the date of Christmas and thus shows that the Epiphany season is drawing to a close. Most churches in the East observe the occasion on 14 February since they celebrate Christ’s Nativity on 6 January.

The Scripture Readings:
Old Testament: 1 Samuel 1:21-28
Second Reading: Malachi 3:1-4
Gospel: Luke 2:22-32

We pray:
Almighty and ever-living God, as Your only-begotten Son was this day presented in the temple in the substance of our flesh, grant that we may be presented to You with pure and clean hearts; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Martin Luther’s Hymn: In Peace and Joy I Now Depart
Luther wrote this hymn to put Simeon’s words in the form of a hymnic setting. It is a beautiful prayer, that makes for a lovely homily for us to ponder on this day:

In peace and joy I now depart
At God’s disposing;
For full of comfort is my heart,
Soft reposing.
So the Lord hath promised me,
And death is but a slumber.

’Tis Christ that wrought this work for me,
My faithful Savior,
Whom Thou hast made mine eyes to see
By Thy favor.
Now I know He is my Life,
My Help in need and dying.

Him Thou hast unto all set forth
Their great Salvation
And to His kingdom called the earth,
Every nation,
By Thy dear and wholesome Word,
In every place resounding.

He is the Hope and saving Light
Of lands benighted;
By Him are they who dwelt in night
Fed and lighted.
He is Israel’s Praise and Bliss,
Their Joy, Reward, and Glory.

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Spring Catalog Preview Sale: Ends at the Close of Monday

February 1st, 2014 Comments off

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Who is Buried in Charlemagne’s Tomb? Answer: Charlemagne

February 1st, 2014 Comments off

January 31st, 2014: From the History Blog

That may seem obvious, but given how often he was exhumed and reburied and parts of him given away as relics, it’s actually quite notable that the collection of bones in the Karlsschrein, the Shrine of Charlemagne, and other reliquaries in the Aachen Cathedral all appear to come from the same person who matches contemporary descriptions of the Frankish king.

Charlemagne died almost exactly 1200 years ago, on January 28th, 814, and was buried in the choir of the Palatine Chapel in Aachen Cathedral. (See Einhard’s Life of Charlemagne, written 15-20 years after his death for a description.) In 1000, Otto III, keen to present himself as the successor of the great man, had the burial vault opened. According to German chronicler and bishop Thietmar of Merseburg who was a contemporary of Otto’s, when the vault was opened they found Charlemagne’s uncorrupt body seated upon a marble throne wearing a crown with a scepter in his hand and the gospels open in his lap. Otto reportedly Helped himself to some of the relics and brought them to Rome.

Frederick I Barbarossa was the next to disinter Charlemagne. In 1165, he had the remains exhumed and displayed as holy relics at the Aachen Court festival. Again this was a means for Frederick to establish a connection with the revered leader and to position Aachen as a center of pilgrimage like St. Denis or Westminster. To curry favor with Frederick, Antipope Paschal III canonized Charlemagne that same year, although this, like all of Paschal’s acts, was never recognized by the Vatican. Barbarossa had Charlemagne’s remains reburied, this time in an elaborate third century A.D. Roman marble sarcophagus depicting the Rape of Persephone, which may seem incongruous as a topic for Christian burial, but like many ancient myths was re-interpreted as a symbol of Christ’s resurrection.

He didn’t stay there for long. In 1215, Frederick II had Charlemagne exhumed yet again. He commissioned local goldsmiths to make a rich gold casket to hold the bones. That’s the Karlsschrein originally in the placed in the center of the Palatine Chapel underneath a chandelier donated by Frederick Barbarossa in 1168.

Nearly 200 years passed before the next king inserted himself into Charlemagne’s eternal rest. In 1349, some of his bones were removed to individual reliquaries by Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV. He had a gold reliquary made to contain a thigh bone, and the Bust of Charlemagne to contain the skullcap. Louis XI of France contributed to the trend in 1481 by commissioning the Arm Reliquary, a golden arm that contains the ulna and radius from Charlemagne’s right arm.

It was scientists who took over from the emperors and kings. In 1861, Charlemagne’s remains were exhumed again so they could be studied. His skeleton was reconstructed and a very generous estimate (1.92 meters, or 6’4″) made of his height. In 1988, scientists exhumed his remains one more time, this time in secret. This study covered the bones in the reliquaries as well, a total of 94 bones and bone fragments, and they spent years meticulously examining and testing the collection. On Wednesday, January 28th, the 1200th anniversary of Charlemagne’s death, the results of the research were announced.

One of the scientists studying the remains, Professor Frank Rühli, said: “Thanks to the results from 1988 up until today, we can say with great likelihood that we are dealing with the skeleton of Charlemagne.”

From studying the dimensions of the upper arm, thigh and shin bones, scientists have built up a picture of the man behind the skeleton, and it matches descriptions of Charlemagne.

At 1.84 metres (six feet), he was unusually tall for his time. The team also estimated his weight at around 78 kilograms, giving him a slim body mass index of around 23.

The average height for an adult male in the 9th century was 1.69 meters or 5’6″, which put Charlemagne in the 99th percentile. Einhard’s description of him fits the results of the study even in some of the smaller details, like the limp that struck him in his later years. Researchers found that the kneecap and heel bone had deposits consistent with an injury.

From Chapter 22 of the Life of Charlemagne:

Charles was large and strong, and of lofty stature, though not disproportionately tall (his height is well known to have been seven times the length of his foot); the upper part of his head was round, his eyes very large and animated, nose a little long, hair fair, and face laughing and merry. Thus his appearance was always stately and dignified, whether he was standing or sitting; although his neck was thick and somewhat short, and his belly rather prominent; but the symmetry of the rest of his body concealed these defects. His gait was firm, his whole carriage manly, and his voice clear, but not so strong as his size led one to expect. His health was excellent, except during the four years preceding his death, when he was subject to frequent fevers; at the last he even limped a little with one foot.

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Confessions of a One Year Lectionary Convert

January 31st, 2014 Comments off

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Rev. Mark Surgburg has an excellent blog post explaining why he switched from using the three year lectionary to using the the one year lectionary. It’s the best thing I’ve ever read on this subject and avoids some of the romanticized reasons for using the one year lectionary. My use of the one year lectionary when I was a parish pastor was purely selfish and pragmatic. I enjoyed being able quickly to check out how the Early Church Fathers and Martin Luther and other faithful, orthodox Lutherans preached on the texts I would have to preach on. Mark Surburg provides even better reasons in his post. Oh, and of course, you can add one more excellent reason to use the one year lectionary, Concordia Publishing House now offers a full line of full color bulletins to support the One Year Lectionary, using traditional art.  We also offer a complete set of downloadable bulletin inserts that support the one year lectionary.

I’d like to hear from pastors who have decided to use the one year lectionary as to why they are using it, and I’d like to hear from pastors who have decided to use it.

Let’s have your confessions!

Here’s a little taste:

If you had told me ten years ago that I would be using the one year lectionary today, I would have said that you were crazy.  I had experienced the one year lectionary as a boy.  However, in 1982 my home congregation purchased Lutheran Worship and began using the three year lectionary that came out with the new hymnal.  I was twelve years old, and from that moment all the way through my training at the seminary I was in congregations that used the three year lectionary.  From the age when I was old enough to know anything about the existence of a lectionary, the three year lectionary was the only one I experienced. 

Read the rest here.

Sale on Book of Concord: $20 each with free shipping available

January 31st, 2014 Comments off

It’s back on sale again, $20 for a copy of Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions, the best selling edition of the Book of Concord in English. If you purchase at least four of them, you will eligible to receive free shipping.

Link here to make a purchase.

Remember, Valentine’s Day is right around the corner and nothing says, “I love you” better than a copy of the Book of Concord.

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New Family Devotional Resource! “Family Time” – Save 20%

January 31st, 2014 Comments off

Publishing Notes: Amazon v. Walmart

January 31st, 2014 Comments off

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Here is the latest summary of Amazon’s financial results and condition. Recent reports have indicated that Walmart is planning to go head-to-head with Amazon in the future. That should prove interesting! Just to give you some perspective of just how huge Walmart is, I looked at their 2014 operating income results: $39 BILLION dollars, with total revenue of $469 BILLION dollars.

So, if Walmart is serious about trying to take on Amazon, if I were Amazon, I’d be a bit on the nervous side!!

Amazon’s net sales increased 22 percent to $74.45 billion in 2013, as compared to $61.09 billion in 201, the company revealed today. The company’s net sales increased 20 percent to $25.59 billion in the fourth quarter of 2013, as compared with $21.27 billion in fourth quarter of 2012.

Amazon’s operating income increased 10% to $745 million, compared with $676 million in 2012. The unfavorable impact from year-over-year changes in foreign exchange rates throughout the year on operating income was $29 million. Net income was $274 million, or $0.59 per diluted share, compared with net loss of $39 million, or $0.09 per diluted share, in 2012.

“It’s a good time to be an Amazon customer. You can now read your Kindle gate-to-gate, get instant on-device tech support via our revolutionary Mayday button, and have packages delivered to your door even on Sundays,” stated Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon.com.

Categories: Publishing

An Interview with Dr. Christian Preus: Translator of Melanchthon’s 1521 LOCI COMMUNES

January 30th, 2014 Comments off

I155211n his first project for Concordia Publishing House, Dr. Christian Preus took on the translation of the 1521 edition of Philipp Melanchthon’s Loci Communes, published under the title Commonplaces: Loci Communes 1521. The following interview introduces this essential theological text, its author, and its translator.

Who was Philipp Melanchthon?

Melanchthon was Luther’s closest associate in the Lutheran Reformation. He was a classically trained humanist who worked with Luther from 1518 on to articulate the Gospel clearly. Melanchthon’s defense of the Reformation cause included writing the Augsburg Confession, its Apology, and the Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope, all contained in the Lutheran Book of Concord. Perhaps his most significant contribution, however, is his presentation of the biblical faith in the several editions of his Loci. Melanchthon is justifiably praised for the clarity with which he articulates the Lutheran faith. He was an indispensable Godsend for Luther.

Why is this called “Commonplaces”? What does that mean?

“Commonplaces” is a translation of the Latin loci communes. As Melanchthon explains in this work, commonplaces are those topics in Scripture which serve to summarize its teaching. The commonplaces of Scripture all center around the Gospel, that is, the justification of the ungodly through faith in the promise of mercy in Christ. Melanchthon identifies the loci communissimi (“most common topics”) as sin and grace, Law and Gospel.

What did Luther think about this work? Should it be more central to our understanding of the Reformation?

Luther thought the world of this work. He said that it belonged in the canon. This recommendation alone suggests that the work should be central to our understanding of the Reformation. Melanchthon’s concentration on the doctrine of justification as the interpretive center of Scripture, so clearly articulated in this work, sets the foundation for further systematic and hermeneutical work among later Lutherans. Melanchthon’s concentration on the utter sinfulness of man echoes Luther’s and underlines the importance of the doctrine of man (anthropology) in Lutheran theology.

What issues does this new translation of Melanchthon’s work address?

Melanchthon was a classicist. He used classical and rhetorical expressions to communicate the teaching of Scripture in the clearest way he knew how. More than this, as a classicist and as a convinced believer in Luther’s cause, Melanchthon is concerned to defend Luther’s theology against both the scholastic tradition that had dominated the universities for years and the humanists of moralist stripe who were at best lukewarm supporters of Luther’s cause. This new translation takes account of this context not only in the translation itself but also in footnotes, which fill in for the reader the historical writings, persons, and events to which Melanchthon refers or alludes.

Did you uncover anything surprising as you researched this work and its place in Reformation history?

Probably the most surprising aspect of my research was to discover that Melanchthon is very often reacting not only against his ostensible opponents, the Scholastics, but also against those humanists, especially Erasmus, who like the Scholastics sought morality and ethics from Scripture instead of letting Scripture teach them about God’s wrath against sin and His promise of mercy in Christ Jesus. Another happy discovery is how well this work serves as an introductory hermeneutics, as a guide for interpreting Scripture with the doctrine of justification by faith in the center.

In your opinion, why was Luther so complimentary of this work, and why should it continue to be part of the pastor’s library today?

I remember the excitement with which I first read the Lutheran Confessions, Luther’s Bondage of the Will, Chemnitz’s Examination, and other great works by the early Lutherans. It is the excitement of saying Amen to every single page, of being confirmed in everything you confess as a Lutheran, of learning anew to articulate these same beautiful truths. This is the excitement inspired by this work. It is no dry academic dogmatics. This is the young Melanchthon at his most “Luther-like,” confessing with utter conviction and courage the teaching of Scripture in the face of threats and persecutions. Melanchthon’s work anchors the reader in the fundamentals, the foundations of the Christian faith, with the kind of clarity and in-your-face common sense that defies argument. With modern man’s propensity to major in minors, this book serves as a potent reminder of what being a Christian and a Lutheran is all about.

You come from a family of translators. Did that influence your educational pursuits?

Absolutely, though more because of what they translated than the fact that they were translators. Reading through my grandfather’s [Robert D. Preus] Theology of Post-Reformation Lutheranism and the works of Melanchthon and Chemnitz translated by my granduncle [J. A. O. Preus] and by Fred Kramer made me thirsty to read more of the Lutheran tradition. And while—thanks to the American Edition of Luther’s Works and translators like those mentioned above—we can read a ton of Lutheran theology in translation nowadays, there are thousands upon thousands of books only available to those who know Latin (and German). Then, the more I read of our Lutheran fathers the more I saw how important a classical education was to them and how foundational to the Reformation itself.

What are you working on next?

I’ll be working to translate Luther’s Labors on the Psalms from the years 1518–21 for the new volumes of Luther’s Works coming out from CPH. This work is quite a bit longer than Melanchthon’s Loci Communes 1521, so it should keep me busy for awhile.  The work is very valuable in showing how Luther’s thoughts were developing during the critical years of 1518 to the Diet of Worms in 1521.

Melanchthon’s Commonplaces: Loci Communes 1521 is available now.

Categories: CPH Resources

Forty Years of eBooks: Infographic

January 30th, 2014 Comments off

HT: eBook Friendly via GalleyCat

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Categories: Uncategorized

Melanchthon’s 1521 LOCI COMMUNES is Now Available: Print and eBook

January 30th, 2014 Comments off

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I came into work this morning to find a copy of the book itself, I mean, you know, the paper book, that is to say, the book that is printed on actual paper and bound into a book-book format, not an eBook Book format.

eBook *and* hard copy is now available.

And, as always, there is a 20% discount for any rostered church worker and if you order the hard copy from CPH, select “media mail” for the least expensive shipping option.

HARD COPY HERE $20

EBOOK COPY HERE $10

Categories: CPH Resources