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Archive for November 9th, 2014

In January of 1975, on a college trip from Concordia Senior College, Ft. Wayne Indiana, I went on a three-week intermester tour of Eastern Europe studying the Church in Eastern Europe and Marxism.  We saw the above:  the Potsdamer Platz which had been the heart of Berlin, with the Berlin Wall going through it.  I remember thinking that this evil was always there and would be. This is the devil’s own lie.

 The Berlin Wall was built by the Communist East Germans to surround the free city of West Berlin so that East Germans stopped escaping to the west. Today, 25 years ago, 9 November, the wall came tumbling down.  

We visited an Evangelical (Lutheran) congregation in East Berlin. One of our profs met janitor in the previous year and the prof wanted us to meet him.  Our group sat in the middle of the nave while the janitor told us about what it was like to be a Lutheran and a Christian in East Germany.  All the while he was talking, there were people at the edges of the nave milling about and the janitor was looking to and fro, quite skittish…after awhile, he said let’s move over there…in a more isolated corner of the sanctuary.  One thing he said has stuck with me years later:  “You see, in East Germany, church never leaves the four walls of the building”.  This is the way the virulent secularists want the Church to be in our own day and time…but I write this also as introduction.

The link to the  article below is by Uwe Siemon-Netto.  He is an eye-witness to the rise of communism in East Germany and the fall of the wall. It is a must read.  “Oh, this can’t happen here”.  No probably not, that is in the exact same way…We give thanks to the Lord this day for the end of Berlin Wall, remembering always the Scripture passage:

Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. (Revelation 1)

“And the Wall Down Flat” by Uwe Siemon-Netto

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Aside from Martin Luther, Martin Chemnitz(1522-86) is regarded as the most important theologian in the history of the Lutheran Church. Chemnitz combined a penetrating intellect and an almost encyclopedic knowledge of Scripture and the Church Fathers with a genuine love for the Church. When various doctrinal disagreements broke out after Luther’s death in 1546, Chemnitz determined to give himself fully to the restoration of unity in the Lutheran Church. He became the leading spirit and principal author of the 1577 Formula of Concord, which settled the doctrinal disputes on the basis of Scripture and largely succeeded in restoring unity among Lutherans. Chemnitz also authored the four-volume Examination of the Council of Trent (1565-73), in which he rigorously subjected the teachings of this Roman Catholic Council to the judgment of Scripture and the ancient Church Fathers. The Examination became the definitive Lutheran answer to the Council of Trent, as well as a thorough exposition of the faith of the Augsburg Confession. A theologian and a churchman, Chemnitz was truly a gift of God to the Church. (The Treasury of Daily Prayer, CPH)

Pastor Martin Chemnitz has been called “The Second Martin”, in terms of his importance in the Evangelical (Lutheran) Church.  He is the principal author of The Formula of Concord, the last of the Confessions in The Book of Concord: The Confessions of Lutheran Church.  The Formula has two parts the Epitome and the Solid Declaration.  The Epitome is like that word, it is the epitome,the summation, kind of a Reader’s Digest of the confession.  The Solid Declaration is the unedited document. 8,188 theologians, ministers and teachers signed the Solid Declaration.  On June 25, 1580, the complete Book of Concord was put on sale:  exactly 50 years after the Presentation and reading  of the Augsburg Confession to Emperor Charles V. The Book of Concord was complete and it is still the complete and correct exposition of the Word of God.

A Lutheran pastor vows to teach, preach and administer in accordance with The Confessions as they are the true exposition of the Scriptures, the Word of God.  A repeated phrase throughout the Formula is:  “We believe, teach and confess…”   This begins the affirmative theses.  Then there are the negative theses in which the Confessors condemn false doctrine. Post-moderns do not like this.  Post-moderns base their understanding of truth on what they experience and feel, our ‘free’ will…and such is a slippery slope, a Gadarene slide into the abyss ( Matthew 8:  28-31).  Saving faith is based upon sound doctrine.  “This doctrine is founded upon the Word of God…” (Solid Declaration , Article II, Free Will, paragraph 28, Tappert).

An example from the Formula by Martin Chemnitz on the ‘we believe, teach and confess” is on Holy Communion based upon the Word of God. I have heard  many a person and have read many a book asserting  that they teach is “Biblical, nondenominational, non-sectarian Christianity” and then go on to  deny the Sacraments, such as Holy Communion as mere memorial, the Sacrament of the ‘divine absence’, not Presence.  His Body and Blood is for the weak and the trembling in faith to be strengthened as we repent, and turn toward the Lord and not ourselves!  Here is Chemnitz showing us pure doctrine and pure pastoral care for sinners as we come to the Blessed Sacrament.  Here is a quote from  The Formula of Concord, authored by Pr. Chemnitz on the Lord’s Supper for the strengthening of the true Faith:

“…it must [also] be carefully explained who are the unworthy guests of this Supper, namely, those who go to this Sacrament without true repentance and sorrow for their sins, and without true faith and the good intention of amending their lives, and by their unworthy oral eating of the body ofChrist load themselves with damnation, that is, with temporal and eternal punishments, and become guilty of the body and blood of Christ.

69] For Christians who are of weak faith, diffident, troubled, and heartily terrified because of the greatness and number of their sins, and think that in this their great impurity they are not worthy of this precious treasure and the benefits of Christ, and who feel and lament their weakness of faith, and from their hearts desire that they may serve God with stronger, more joyful faith and pure obedience, they are the truly worthy guests for whom this highly venerable Sacrament [and sacred feast] has been especially instituted and appointed; 70] as Christ says, Matt. 11:28: Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Also Matt. 9:12: They that be whole need not a physician, but they that be sick. Also [ 2 Cor. 12:9 ]: God’s strength is made perfect in weakness. Also [ Rom. 14:1 ]: Him that is weak in the faith receive ye [ Rom 14:3 ], for God hath received him. For whosoever believeth in the Son of God, be it with a strong or with a weak faith, has eternal life [ John 3:15f. ].

71] And worthiness does not depend upon great or small weakness or strength of faith, but upon the merit of Christ, which the distressed father of little faith [ Mark 9:24 ] enjoyed as well as Abraham, Paul, and others who have a joyful and strong faith.”

 Let us pray…

Lord, God heavenly Father, through the teaching of Martin Chemnitz, You prepare us for the coming of Your Son to lead home His Bride, the Church, that with all the company of the redeemed we may finally enter in to His eternal wedding feast; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

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The oil was there for the taking by all ten virgins, the bridal party. The 10 virgins symbolize the Church. Someone amply supplied the oil for the virgins to meet the Bridegroom who came at an hour no one suspected. The oil was given for that purpose. In that time, oil was used for three purposes

  • for lamps, as in today’s Gospel
  • for medicine, as we read that the Samaritan took care of the man robbed and beaten on the Jericho road by pouring wine and oil upon his  wounds
  • for the face to make it shine, as it is written, Psalm 104: 15 , the Lord gives to us,

“…wine to gladden the heart of man,
oil to make his face shine
    and bread to strengthen man’s heart.

For lamps, the oil filled the lamps , medicine and the face,that is,  for light, healing and joy.  And oil was used f or special and unique purpose:  the anointing with oil marked the investiture of the Kings of Israel, as Samuel anointed Saul and David as the Kings of Israel.Oil was administered by anointing. Remember that the title “Christ” means “anointed one”.  Christ is the Greek translation of the Hebrew, Messiah. Behold, One is here who greater than the prophets!  We read in Hebrews 1: 9:

But of the Son (Note:  capital “S”)  he says,

“Your throne, O God, is forever and ever,
    the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom.
You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness;
therefore God, your God, has anointed you
    with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.

 The preacher in Hebrews is citing Psalm 45.  Psalm 45 is about the anointing of the King of Israel.  The kings of Israel were to be filled as lamps, with the oil of the Holy Spirit, so to heal the Lord’s people with His Word and to make the face shine with joy in the presence of the Lord.  But so many of the kings of Israel and Judah turned the hearts of Israel to false gods and immorality, personal and social and Israel went skipping into the utter and outer darkness. They did not serve the Lord but were dealers in falsehood.  Now, comes the King, “Of the Son”, who alone is the true King, who reigns “anointed” “with the oil of gladness beyond your companions”.  He was anointed beyond His companions, beyond the kings and prophets of Israel. As the prophets brought the Word of the Lord to Israel, so did Jesus Christ, but beyond, He is the Word made flesh.  He would be anointed by the spit of Roman soldiers, His sweat anointed His body as he was flogged and  as He bore the Cross, His tears were the anointing for the lost, His blood anointed His sacred head now wounded, with grief and shame bore down. He shed His blood not for His sins, for He had none, but ours and we are anointed in the Holy Spirit.  The bridegroom died for His bride, even when she spurned him: when no man heedeth, He interecedeth.

The wise virgins, when asked by the five foolish virgins, to give them some of there oil, could not. They would not have enough, the wise virgins responded. The noblest saint in Christ cannot believe for another person.  All the supposed saints’ merits, accrued in some sort of heavenly bank account, cannot substitute for your heart’s pain and sin to lay hold of Jesus Christ in faith in His grace toward you.  There is no substitute for the grace of God in Jesus, the anointed One.  He gives us faith to fill our lamps with the oil of His gladness, His salvation for sinners, His forgiveness, which all the saints carried with them, as the Lord bore them. When after the delay of the bridegroom coming at the hour no one could guess, at midnight, the wise virgins took extra oil with them.  They  were thinking in joy for the coming of the bridegroom.  He was delayed but they carried the oil that gave them light:  the Anointed One, Jesus Christ. He gives His grace amply for the taking.

 When the door is closed then, it is closed. As in the Great O Antiphon of Advent:

 O Key of David and sceptre of the House of Israel;

you open and no one can shut;

you shut and no one can open:

Come and lead the prisoners from the prison house,

those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death

 When He comes, when the author comes on stage the play is over. The door was closed on the foolish virgins. So harsh! We might say.  It is darkness for those who trust in themselves for salvation. When the 5 wise virgins said go into town to find oil, I have to ask where would they find oil merchants at midnight?  Of  course, none!  And that’s the point. There is no substitute for the Lord’s mercy toward us, for there is no mercy in the devil, in sin and wickedness.  There are dealers in the darkness and of the darkness who promise false gospels of prosperity, fame which is no more than idolatry.  Amos said that  the day of the Lord is darkness not light for those who follow false gods, thinking they do not need the oil of gladness in the Lord. Israel trusted in the mere doing of sacrifice and worship in the Temple to gain salvation in some sort of eternal barter system.  Those who “…having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power” There is no second chances in some 1,000 years reign of Christ after a so-called rapture.  Here in this life unbelievers have a chance every minute of every day to look to the One who loved them and us all that He gave His life upon the Cross. Here in this life believers have a chance every minute of every day to look to the One who loved them and us all that He gave His life upon the Cross. So we can pray unceasingly.

 He taught this parable that we may  watch for His coming. He taught this parable that we be the wise Church, not the foolish church.  The foolish church puts human opinions, theologies and the like center.  The wise Church knows Who is the Center of the Church:  Jesus Christ.   He taught this parable for hope.   For in this hope we were saved (Romans 8: 24).  Hope is for us individually and together as His Body the Church.  Our Lord’s parable is not for some eternal stat that 50% will be saved, 50% damned, in some sort of non-Biblical double  predestination. He taught the parable of the virgins for us, His teaching is the Word of God, the Scriptures, “…which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.’ (2 Timothy 3: 15).  He taught the parable that we be wise for salvation in Him, carrying the oil of faith in His Word of promise to us all.  He taught this for hope in Him who soon after He taught this parable in the Temple would be cast out of Jerusalem to bear the hopelessness of death, yours and mine upon the Cross.  Paul wrote we Christians grieve but as those who have hope.  The hope is His salvation is for the soul and the body, that when He comes all the living and the dead, judged and saved in Him, will be caught up with Him as He leads us home, the new heavens and the new earth.

 God’s law will wake us up with its terror over sin and God’s Gospel made us alive in Christ.  Watchfulness for Christ Jesus  and the Gospel of  His death and resurrection is fourfold.  As the fourfold Gospel is confessed in the Smalcald articles of the Lutheran Confessions:

 We will now return to the Gospel, which not merely in one way gives us counsel and aid against sin; for God is superabundantly rich [and liberal] in His grace [and goodness].

First, through the spoken Word by which the forgiveness of sins is preached [He commands to be preached] in the whole world; which is the peculiar office of the Gospel.

Secondly, through Baptism.

Thirdly, through the holy Sacrament of the Altar.

Fourthly, through the power of the keys, and also through the mutual conversation and consolation of brethren, 18:20: Where two or three are gathered together, etc

The mutual conversation and consolation of the brethren is for us to encourage each other in the oil of His forgiveness.  We do mourn those who die but as those who have hope.  We need to hear this word of forgiveness from each other in conversation and consolation.  The fourfold means of the Gospel gives us the three fold gifts of the Gospel as signified by oil:  light, healing and joy. 

  1. God’s Word is light:  His Law a light unto our path that may know His way and as Jesus is the Way, the only  Way, we are led by Jesus the Anointed, the pioneer and perfector of our faith. 
  2. His Word is healing and the balm of healing for broken and contrite hearts, which O Lord, you will not despise. 
  3. His Word is the joy, of not only knowing the truth, but knowing He who knows us better than we do ourselves.

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.  Ephesians 3:  20-21

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