Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘The Book of Concord’ Category

Intro: The Augsburg Confession, the principal doctrinal statement of…Martin Luther and the Lutheran reformers, was written largely by Phillip Melanchthon. At its heart it confesses the justification of sinners by grace alone, through faith alone, for the sake of Christ alone. Signed by leaders of many German cities and regions, the confession was formally presented to the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V at Augsburg, Germany, on June 25, 1530. A few weeks later Roman Catholic authorities rejected the Confession, which Melanchthon defended in the Apology of the Augsburg Confession (1531). In 1580 the Unaltered Augsburg Confession was included in the Book of Concord. (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, CPH)

This was the scene as described by a Reformation historian (The Book of Concord Historical Introduction) :

“The place where they assembled on Saturday, June 25, at 3 P.M., was not the courtroom, where the meetings of the Diet were ordinarily conducted, but, as the Imperial Herald, Caspar Sturm, reports, the ‘Pfalz,’ the large front room, i. e., the Chapter-room of the Bishop’s palace, where the Emperor lived. The two Saxon chancellors, Dr. Greg. Brueek and Dr. Chr. Beyer, the one with the Latin and the other with the German copy of the Confession, stepped into the middle of the hall, while as many of the Evangelically minded estates as had the courage publicly to espouse the Evangelical cause arose from their seats…The Emperor desired to hear the Latin text. But when Elector John had called attention to the fact that the meeting was held on German soil, and expressed the hope that the Emperor would permit the reading to proceed in German, it was granted. Hereupon Dr. Beyer read the Confession. The reading lasted about two hours; but he read with a voice so clear and plain that the multitude, which could not gain access to the hall, understood every word in the courtyard.” 

This painting by Lucas Cranach, a contemporary and friend Luther and his family, shows clearly our calling to preach Christ and Him crucified, pointing to the Lord,not to ourselves.

Reflection:  What was all the fuss about? In my amateur historical understanding, the center of the fuss was over the following article in The Augsburg Confession presented on this day, these 2 sentences caused the furor:

Article IV: Justification.

Our churches also teach that men cannot be justified before God  by their own strength, merits, or works but are freely justified for Christ’s sake through faith when they believe that they are received  into favor and that their sins are forgiven on account of Christ, who by his death made satisfaction for our sins. This faith God imputes for righteousness in his sight (Rom. 3, 4).

 The papal theologians had been teaching and preaching for too long:  Christ, yes, faith in Him, yes, but Christ plus something else:  works.  The Gospel, the Lord’s one work of universal (catholic)  salvation in the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ means that the whole papal system of rosaries, pilgrimages, indulgences can not save one.   Christ alone has, by grace alone known by Scripture alone in the life of His Church.  Even the Law of God can not save (see Galatians 2:19 Galatians 2:21, Ephesians 2:6-8 ).

The papal church knew Article IV meant the undoing of the system.   When the papal theologians responded to the Augsburg Confession with their Confutation, then Melancthon wrote The Apology of the Augsburg Confession and Melancthon’s apologia (defense) of Article IV, Justification, was the longest. These two sentences summed up, not the faith of the Reformers, but the faith as taught, preached and written in the Bible.  These two sentences undermined the institutional church’s hegemony on the lives of catholics/Christians with a system of works, obligatory works to gain salvation.  

The Reformers presented on this day their Confession, based soundly  upon the Scripture and the 3 Ecumenical Creeds (Apostles, Nicene and Athansasian), that salvation in Jesus Christ is sheer gift for sinners who can not attain heaven by anything we can ever do.  The Fathers at Augsburg began this Confession of the catholic Church with the Creeds to demonstrate that Justification is the key of Scripture and had been taught and preached and administered since the Apostles through all the ensuing centuries, but lost and forgotten by the papal church.

 Further, the Reformers were as catholic as Augustine was in the teaching of justification in Christ alone.  The Fathers at Augsburg were not really trying to “change” the Church, or leave the Church, but change it back to the way it was according to the Gospel.  It was a conservative reformation. They did not want to start a new church, as did Calvin and Zwingli.  The orthodox confessional Church is catholic.  It was a reformation not a revolution, yet this conservative reformation had revolutionary aspects for a tradition that confused itself as the truth, both Roman Catholic and Protestantism:

The Lutheran Church has not the slightest theological interest in this antithesis between Catholicism and Protestantism. It does not know to which side it belongs. If only there were a clear-cut contradiction between true and false doctrine in the antithesis! But this does not happen to be the case. For there are heresies in Protestantism which are just as dangerous as those of Catholicism. Lutheran theology differs from Reformed theology in that it lays great emphasis on the fact that the evangelical church is none other than the medieval Catholic Church purged of certain heresies and abuses. The Lutheran theologian acknowledges that he belongs to the same visible church to which Thomas Aquinas and Bernard of Clairvaux, Augustine and Tertullian, Anthanasius and Irenaeus once belonged. The orthodox evangelical church is the legitimate continuation of the medieval Catholic Church, not the church of the Council of Trent and the Vatican Council which renounced evangelical truth when it rejected the Reformation.For the orthodox evangelical church is really identical with the orthodox Catholic Church of all times. (Here We Stand (1932) by Rev. Hermann Sasse, Lutheran theologian and professor, at the time publication at the University of Erlangen)

This lively iconographic image shows Word and Sacraments, the Preaching of Christ and Him crucified, freely given rein for the joy and edifying of Christ’s holy people for their faith and faith active in love.

Let us pray…

Lord God, heavenly Father, You preserved the teaching of the apostolic Church through the confession of the true faith at Augsburg. Continue to cast the bright beams of Your light upon Your Church that we, being instructed by the doctrine of the blessed apostles, may walk in the light of Your truth and finally attain to the light of everlasting life; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

 

Read Full Post »

“Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” (St. John 8:  58)

 

Back when the “Jesus revolution” began in the 70s, the one way sign, as Jesus is the one way to heaven, was invented.  That has gone the way of the dodo bird.  The sign of the cross is still with us and has been probably for 2,000 years.  The cross is the sign that Jesus is the one way to heaven.  It is the sign for freed travelers. The sign of the Cross is connected to the Name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, one God.  The Lord, the Holy Trinity is hard to explain, but taught.  He is our Baptism.  Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit (Matthew 28). Taught and Baptized. Jesus did not explain when He began His public ministry and spoke of “His Father” as “your Father” and pray Our Father.  He came in the confidence of the One who was sent. “From heaven above to earth I come”.  

 The sign of the Cross is just that: a sign. A sign points to something or someone we need to know to go the right way and in the right way: Jesus Christ. A sign is quite specific.  I do not think there could be a ‘generic sign’. A generic sign would point to nothing specific, only in general.  Many believe in god,the supreme being, the big guy in the sky or whatever but then God is made into our own image.  That deity is a comfortable god.  The sign of the Cross points to the  Lord who revealed Himself first to Israel and then in the fullness of time in HIs beloved Son Jesus Christ.  We know His attitude and will towards us all.   The sign of the Cross upon both body and soul is the Lord’s doing in Baptism:  in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

 Making the sign of the Cross is catholic. Yup, that’s right, catholic, cata holos from the Greek, literally, “according to the whole”, the faith received by the saints once and for all (Jude):  the confessional Lutheran church is the catholic church reformed as IT HAD BEEN from the get go but the tendency is for the Old Adam to focus on what I can do to be saved. 

In a particularly hilarious episode of “Mr. Bean,” played by the elastic faced Rowan Atkinson, is late for work and runs to his car in his pajamas with his clothes in hand.  Mr. Bean attempts to wash and dress while driving to work with predictably humorous results. At one point he brushes his teeth and then leans out the car window and sprays the windshield washer and hanging out the window rinses out his moth.  As laudable as being properly groomed and dressed for work might be, Mr. Bean simply cannot drive properly while putting on his pants. So it is for those who attempt to keep their eyes on their own piety instead of upon the Word of God. By focusing on their own righteousness they will easily fail to see the true righteousness of God in the Word of God. At one point, Mr. Bean gets in the backseat, steering the car with his feet to put on his socks and he is going around and around the ubiquitous in England.  “When in doubt, run in circles, scream and shout”.  No! Stop, pray. The devil’s wile wants to get you on to yourself, from the get-go as when he said to Adam and Eve:  “Don’t you want to be like God?”As praiseworthy as scrutinizing our own behavior may be, it will easily get us entirely off the track and with a less humorous outcome than befalls Mr. Bean.

 The Bible is from cover to cover a protest against focusing on our own righteousness over the gift of righteousness from God. It decisively forbids us to return to focus on ourselves once we have been set within divine righteousness through the Word of God. God has given us His pure Word that grants us the life and death of Christ.  (Quote and illustration from Pr. Scott Murray in his Memorial Moments, an e-mail daily reflection from his congregation, Memorial Lutheran Church, Houston, TX)

 The dead can not live unless the living one makes us alive.  He has. Specifically, in Jesus Christ.  Living as a young kid in New York,  I remember the first time someone called me a Protestant and I felt like I was being insulted. “I’m a Lutheran!” We are Lutherans, catholics who preach and teach that faith and salvation is utter gift from God, washed in Holy Baptism, feeding on His Body and Blood by faith.  We confessed the Athanasian Creed:  This is the catholic religion.

 My father, when he was in the FBI, went to the shooting range monthly and I loved it when he brought back a target, the one with a black human torso, holes in head and heart.  The clip art on the back of the bulletin (seen here) is to show how to make the sign of the cross.  I also thought it looks like a target.: bull’s eye. Well, it  sort of is. You are the Lord’s target.  You were His target on the Cross. The Word made flesh spoken and administered in the Sacraments takes aim at us, heart and mind and soul and flesh.  To kill?  Yes, to kill the old Adam and put more and more of His life in us.  When sin is killed, it can’t be held in trust,  but I am held in His nail printed hands in faith.

 Jesus revealed the Father and the Holy Spirit when He became flesh and dwelt among us full of grace and truth. When Jesus was baptized and came up out of the water, the Holy Spirit descended like a dove and the voice of the Father spoke:  This is my Beloved Son with whom I am well pleased.  When He was transfigured the Holy Spirit overshadowed Him and the Father said the same thing as when Jesus was baptized except adding:  Listen to Him. Everything He did and said reveals the Father and the Spirit, one God. The Trinity is a conspiracy: con, with, spirare, spirit, breathe, breathing together in the lungs of Jesus Christ.  Still is.    When Jesus contested the Jews, He did not soft sell the truth, Before Abraham was I am. I am as when He spoke to Moses out of the burning bush, and Moses asked the Lord, What is your Name?  He said I AM. He did not sell His doctrine out like too many churches do who don’t like the uncomfortability of the truth, of doctrine.  They want to go their own way.  We all do and that’s the various ways to hell. The doctrine of the Holy Trinity is the everlasting comfort and consolation for the world lost in it’s own wisdom.   This is no good teacher.  There are many good teachers. We learned that in Moore Oklahoma, teachers protected their students with their bodies when the tornado came. Also the teachers in Newtown, Connecticut when the murderer came. Jesus Christ protects us from that murderer, the devil.  Only Jesus Christ can save us all, because He is true Man and true God, shielding you from that murderer, the devil, who wants to drive  you into despair, seeking someone to devour.  Jesus Christ protects you in His forgiveness and mercy from sin, death and  the power of devil, with His Body.  As it is written in Hebrews:

..when Christ came into the world, he said,
“Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired,
but a body have you prepared for me;
6in burnt offerings and sin offerings
you have taken no pleasure.

and again,

And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

 He is not only a good teacher but God in man made manifest. The sign of His cross points us out from our selves to Himself and points us to His grace and peace.The cross is traced over frail flesh, prone to sin, prone to wander, prone to blunder.  It is traced when we invoke His Name.  It is traced when an infant or an adult is Baptized.  It is traced over us all when blessed.  It is traced to remember our Baptism.  It is traced when the word of Absolution is pronounced. Traced over your bodies to remind you all are the Temple of the Holy Spirit, together His Body, in the glory of God our Father. Traced to remind us we bought for a price, not with silver or gold but His precious blood. His Body and Blood risen to enliven us in the Holy Spirit in the glory of the Father, IN the Name of the Father, and of the  +Son and of the Holy Ghost.

And the peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Jesus Christ. Amen.

Read Full Post »

Preach the Law in All Its Sternness and the Gospel in All Its Sweetness

Carl Ferdinand Wilhelm Walther

Born: 25 October 1811, Langenchursdorf, Saxony, Germany

 Died:   7 May 1887,St. Louis,Missouri

First President of The Lutheran Church-MissouriSynod: 1847-1850 & 1864-1878

C.F.W. Walther was educated at the University of Leipzig, after which he tutored for the Loeber family in Cahla from 1833 to 1837. He was ordained on 15  January 1837 and briefly accepted a parish in Braeunsdorf, before sailing to America in 1839 with the Saxon Immigration. In 1878, he received the honorary degree of Doctor of Divinity from Capital University in Columbus, Ohio.

On 21  September 1844 he married Emilie Buenger (1812-1885), also one of the original Saxon immigrants.

For forty-six years Walther was the pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church in St. Louis. He also taught at Concordia Seminary,St. Louis, from 1850 until his death. He served as the president of the Synod from its founding in 1847 to 1850. In 1864 he was again elected president and served until 1878.

  • For more biographical information on Walther  read this.
  • For more information on Walther as Pastor at Trinity Lutheran, and some interesting historical videos regarding Trinity and Walther, go here.

Walther has been called “The Martin Luther of America”.  I do not think this assessment is inaccurate.  As Pastor, President and Professor he had a great influence upon one of the largest Lutheran Church bodies in the United States.  But ‘his’ influence was only from the book he is  probably pointing to in the picture above:  The Holy Scriptures.

Whoever thinks that he can find one error in Holy Scripture does not believe in Holy Scripture but in himself; for even if he accepted everything else as true, he would believe it not because Scripture says so but because it agrees with his reason or with his sentiments.

His most influential book is The Proper Distinction Between Law and Gospel , the series of 39 evening lectures of his 25 Theses regarding this crucial Biblical understanding to his  seminarians between Friday, September 12, 1884 and Friday, November 6, 1885 and it was published posthumously .   The lectures were based upon great Reformation insight confessed in The Apology of the Augsburg Confession:

“All Scriptures should be divided into these two chief doctrines, the law and the promises.For in some places it presents the Law, and in others the promise concerning Christ, namely, either when [in the Old Testament] it promises that Christ will come, and offers, for His sake, the remission of sins justification, and life eternal, or when, in the Gospel [in the New Testament], Christ Himself, since He has appeared, promises the remission of sins, justification, and life eternal.  Moreover, in this discussion, by Law we designate the Ten Commandments, wherever they are read in the Scriptures.  ” (Article IV. Justification)

Law and Promise (Gospel) do two different things:  the Law shows us our sin and the Gospel points us to our Savior.  If we mix up Law and Promise we have what goes for much of Christian religion:  then we just have to do what we can and God will do the rest, but since sin is death, then it would be like telling Lazarus:  just want and try to live and I’ll do the rest! No!  Jesus Christ called him out of the tomb by His Word…and you and I!  Luther called distinguishing Law and Promise a great, difficult and high art.  Walther contributed to this art mightily.  His lectures have been called “uncreative”.  I thank God for Walther’s uncreativity.  He was no hero but he was faithful to the Scripture and their true exposition in The Book of Concord which was immensely unpopular in 19th Century Protestant America.  Like Lydia, he was considered faithful. 

I came across this meme below  recently.  It’s funny.  He was not handsome. Yes, I agree with the meme…to a point, this point: There is no luck in the Kingdom of God, only the Lord’s sheer grace for sinners.  Yes and thank God for that! The statue of Walther in his mausoleum on the south side of St. Louis, shows him standing and his hand resting on two books: the Bible and the Book of Concord.  The  Lord raises up men to preach and teach the Word of God so it may heard in our day:  May the Lord ever do so! May the Church be so blessed with faithful preaching and teaching!

Arise, you Lutherans of America! Arise! Let us use the glorious freedom that we taste here in America to the end that the old banner of confession, which in our old fatherland lay in musty [ruin], be hoisted here again. And let us gather around this banner as a faithful and courageous people of confession. Let us renew today the old oath of loyalty that we Lutherans have recited already at our confirmation. Let our teachers in church and school be sworn to that oath! Let us examine and correct everything, which we hear and read, next to God’s Word, according to this confession. Finally, let us only work and fight in rank and file with those who are prepared to follow this banner. The storms of the world and the false brothers may rain upon us. They will not rend asunder our banner, but only more fully and broadly unfurl it before the eyes of all the world. In the Old World, my brothers, it is evident that the sun, which once rose in Augsburg and upon the Bergen Cloister, the sun of the pure Gospel, is setting. Many true Lutherans in the Old World look with longing and hope to our young American Lutheran Church, which though it is small, is free. And because she is free, she is, before others, called to salvage and rescue the pure Gospel here in the New World in these last times, that holy relic entrusted to our Church.O arise! Arise, American Lutheran Zion, and let there be light! You, her watchmen, forward! Lay hold the holy banner and hold it high and swing it joyously! All of you, you children of this Zion, man and wife, old and young, follow those who show themselves true bearers of the flag! 0 take heart and be joyful! The Lord, who is a God of truth, is with us! By that sign we shall conquer, though all powers of darkness in midnight hour plot against us and rise against us on the battlefield. The battle will rage hot and ever hotter! Finally, we, persistent to the end—and grant this to us Jesus Christ, Thou Leader in the fight!—we will be taken in triumph into the congregation above, to the eternal festival of jubilation. Amen.

—C. F. W. Walther, from The Treasury of Daily Prayer (CPH)

Read Full Post »

Johann Sebastian Bach, the great confessional Lutheran musician composed for churches and for all four seasons…of the Church Year:  Advent/Christmas, Lent, Easter and the Sundays after Trinity (or what we call the Pentecost season).  It seems Lent dominated his compositions.  He would write Lenten themes for the Sundays after Pentecost for instance.  Why?  The cross of Jesus Christ, His suffering, crucifixion, death and burial is for the whole year, everyday of our lives. We are remembering this evening not only a one-time event in the distant past, but His crucifixion is ever near, as  present as He is risen, He gives us the fruits of His Cross, His grace and peace,  received by faith.   When we consider that the 4 Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, that 50% of them is about this the Lord’s last week alone, it’s clearly all about the Cross, clearly what drove Him there, our sin and our separation from our Father, and clearly He seeks and finds us to draw us to Himself.

 It is not good to put ourselves in the center of church life.  On the top of this sermon is a painting of Luther preaching as depicted by Lucas Cranach. Here is my incorrect depiction of Cranach’s painting

Cranach not for you

with the congregation front and center, not Jesus Christ, for then the death of Jesus Christ is put behind us and there is no forgiveness.  Then the preacher is only pointing judgment’s finger at the congregation, telling you how to live or winning a congregations’ vote. We do not preach the Christian, but Christ for you. The preacher is then suppose to tell you how to live.  Now if you want to know the way the Lord wants us all to live, read the 10 commandments and especially Luther’s Small and Large Catechism and you will find out we fail.  Jesus Christ is not behind. It cannot be because God’s Word the Scripture will not allow it. His Cross is front and center, as John the Baptizer preached at the beginning of the Lord’s public ministry, Behold!  The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.  As Luther is depicted in the correct Lucas Cranach painting.  Cranach was friends with the Luthers.  Lucas portrays himself in the back row of the congregation. Luther’s wife and her children are in the front row.  We think we know our best interests by ourselves, but the Lord shows us His death of our sin, His life who is the life of all the living. Luther and all true Christian preachers point not to us but to the Lord in all His work and in all His Word.

  • It is written in 1 Corinthians that we preach Christ and Him crucified, not preached, past tense, but today and everyday for needy sinners to receive His mercy in the day to day sameness of things.  Paul said, I am the chief of sinners, not I was, as he wrote to Timothy.  Matthew makes clear as he lists the apostles, including himself, he alone identifies himself in the Gospel he wrote, “Matthew, tax collector”.  Even though Matthew never collected taxes again, yet like Paul, he knew he was a sinner for whom Christ Jesus died and rose. The Lord calls His Church to preach a present tense crucified and risen Savior for present tense sinners. 
  • It is written that our baptism, Romans 6 is into His death and resurrection. 
  • It is written of the Lord’s Supper that as oft we eat and drink we proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.  In fact, the Atonement upon the Cross, the forgiveness of sins and the reconciliation of sinners, broken and hurting under the weight and burden  of the Law, is clearly connected by Jesus in His Words of Institution:  for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. (St. Matthew) Anyone who says the Lord’s Supper is not His Body and Blood does not know the Scripture and the Sacrament of the Altar but also Good Friday and Easter Sunday.  They want a different Jesus, a glorious Jesus but His glory is yet to come when He comes again, as He promised.  We want God the way we want Him, a sugar daddy, an empowerer of our plans…then we do not have the Lord but a divine double of ourselves, as idol and our idols keep us cozy in our sins.

On April 9, 1945, Pr. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was executed by the Nazis.  He preached to the centrality of the Cross.

Either I determine the place in which I will find God, or I allow God to determine the place where He will be found. If it is I who say where God will be, I will always find there a God who in some way corresponds to me, is agreeable to me, fits in with my nature. But if it is God who says where he will be, then that will truly be a place which at first is not agreeable to me at all, which does not fit so well with me. That place is the cross of Christ.

Pr. Johann Gerhard taught the riches of His blood upon the Cross for you: 

He bows His head on the timber-trunk of the cross to kiss us in love. He stretches out His arms in order to embrace us in love. He prays for His crucifiers because He suffered out of love for them. His side is opened up with a spear so that the flame of heartfelt love might break forth from it, “so that we through the wound’s opening may behold the mystery of the heart.” In love He longs for us, and thus He said: I thirst [that is,] for your salvation.

  •  Some say I wish Christmas is every day.  It is.  Everyday Christ can be born us as He bore ours sins upon the tree. 
  • Everyday is Good Friday as His cross is the life giving green wood in the paradise of His saints: you. 
  • Everyday is Easter as He is risen from the dead to give us the all the benefits of His death, His blood, His life as He sees we can benefit. 
  • Everyday is Pentecost as the Holy Spirit teaches us Jesus in the preaching and teaching of the Word of God, written, spoken and Incarnate to walk in Him, daily dying and rising.  Even so, come Lord Jesus. Amen.

Read Full Post »

But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. (Hebrews 3: 13, NIV)

    

The New Testament reading in the Daily Lectionary for today  is St. John 4: 1-26,

“…but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

But if we do want to boast, then let us boast that we receive from the fullness of Christ, that we are enlightened by Him, attain forgiveness of sin, and become children of God through Him. For this is the sum and substance of it all: Whoever wishes to be safe-guarded from the devil’s might and to escape sin and death must draw from this well, Christ; from Him flows all salvation and eternal bliss. This fountain is inexhaustible; it is full of grace and truth before God; it never fails no matter how much we draw from it. Even if we all dip from it without stopping, it cannot be emptied, but it remains a perennial fount of all grace and truth, an unfathomable well, an eternal fountain. The more we draw from it, the more it gives. Such water, as St. John remarks later, wells up to eternal life (John 4:14).

The sun is not dimmed and darkened by shining on so many people or by providing the entire world with its light and bright splendor. It retains its light intact. It loses nothing; it is immeasurable, perhaps able to illumine ten more worlds. I suppose that a hundred thousand candles can be ignited from one light, and still this light will not lose any of its brilliance. Likewise, a learned man can educate a thousand scholars without forfeiting any of his own learning. The more he shares with others, the more he has himself. Thus Christ, our Lord, to whom we must flee and of whom we must ask all, is an interminable well, the chief source of all grace, truth, righteousness, wisdom, and life, without limit, measure, or end. Even if the whole world were to draw from this fountain enough grace and truth to transform all people into angels, still it would not lose as much as a drop. This fountain constantly overflows with sheer grace. Whoever wishes to enjoy Christ’s grace—and no one is excluded—let him come and receive it from Him. You will never drain this fountain of living water; it will never run dry. You will all draw from it much more than enough, and yet it will remain a perennial well.

—Martin Luther

Hymnody:

Come, Thou Fount of ev’ry blessing, Tune my heart to sing Thy grace; Streams of mercy, never ceasing,

Call for songs of loudest praise.

While the hope of endless glory

Fills my heart with joy and love,

Teach me ever to adore Thee;

May I still Thy goodness prove.

—Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing (LSB 686:1)

Prayer of the Day

Lord God, heavenly Father, You have called Your Church to worship Your Son in Spirit and truth. Through the Spirit of Jesus, keep us faithful to the one who is the way, the truth, and the life, so that we may be partakers of His divine life and inherit the kingdom promised for those who drink from the water of life; through Your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord. 

Suggested Reading from the Book of Concord

Smalcald Articles III 1111-9

(From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

Read Full Post »


Intro:  Basil and the two Gregorys, collectively known as the Cappadocian Fathers, were leaders of Christian orthodoxy in Asia Minor (modern Turkey) in the later fourth century. Basil and Gregory of Nyssa were brothers; Gregory of Nazianzus was their friend. All three were influential in shaping the theology ratified by the Council of Constantinople of 381, which is expressed in the Nicene Creed. Their defense of the doctrines of the Holy Spirit and Holy Trinity, together with their contributions to the liturgy of the Eastern Church, make them among the most influential Christian teachers and theologians of their time.

Collect of the Day:

Almighty God, You revealed to Your Church your eternal being o glorious majesty and perfect love as one God in a Trinity of Persons. May Your Church, with bishops like Basil of Caesarea,Gregory of Nazianzus, and Gregory of Nyssa, receive grace to continue steadfast in the confession of the true faith and constant in our worship of You, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, who live and reign, one God, now and forever. Amen.

(Source: The Treasury of Daily Prayer)

Read  more about them inCAPPADOCIAN THEOLOGIANS in the Christian Cyclopedia (The Cyclopedia is a great resource).

I have not read much by the Gregorys, but I have read the book cited below.  I find the book faith-strengthening.   Basil was responding to a heresy that denied the equality of the 3 persons of the Holy Trinity.  The heterodox were claiming the subordination of the Holy Spirit by teaching that the conjunctions used in the Bible , referring to the Holy Spirit,  demonstrated this.  Basil goes through and logically shows this is not the case by a word by word  study of the conjunctions in the Bible!  Boring and dry?   Yes, at times, but other times, exciting and wet, wet with the chrism of Holy Baptism in God’s Holy Name!  The translator of this work takes up the subject that theological work is boring and dry, as taught by Basil, and the translator comments:

  •  ”It is this translator’s opinion that  a good dose of dry logical Cappadocian theology can serve as an effective antidote for the subjective emotionalism in which modern Christians frequently find themselves engulfed.  Doctrine these days is often ignored, taken for granted or replaced with individualism, and perhaps the fathers can help us by reminding us (often with many words!) that God became man to show us the truth which gives life and freedom a truth which is eternal.”(David Anderson, On the Holy Spirit by St. Basil, 1980, St. Vladimir’s Press)

The first quote below is Basil’s response to his task of  answering the heretics’ use of  ”syllables”, the minutiae of small words, as integral to teaching and preaching the Truth. The remainder of the quotes stand on their own and also show that Justification by Grace through Faith in Jesus Christ (as in Holy Baptism) was not an invention of the blessed Reformers, but is in the Scripture as testified by many of the Church Fathers:

 Quotes from On the Holy Spirit by Basil the Great

  • “Instruction begins with the proper use of speech, and syllables and words are the elements of speech. Therefore to scrutinize syllables is not a superfluous task…If a man spurns fundamental elements as insignificant trifles, he will never embrace the fullness of wisdom. ‘Yes’ and “No’ are only two syllables, yet truth, the best of all good things, as well as falsehood, the worst possible evil, are most often expressed by these two small words.”
  • “What makes us Christians?  ‘Our faith,’ everyone would answer. How are we saved?  Obviously the regenerating grace of baptism.  How else could we be?  We are confirmed in our understanding that salvation comes through Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Shall we cast away the standard of teaching we have received?”
  • “If there is any grace in the water, it does not come from the nature of the water, but from the Spirit’s Presence, since baptism is not a removal of dirt from the body, but an appeal to God for a clear conscience. (1 Peter 3: 21)  the Lord describes in the Gospel the pattern of life we must be trained to follow after the (baptismal) regeneration:  gentleness, endurance freedom from the defiling love of pleasure, and from covetousness. We must be determined to acquire in this life all the qualities of the life to come. To define the Gospel as a description of the what resurrectional life should be like seems to be correct and appropriate, as far as I am concerned.”
  • “For creatures, holiness comes from without;  for the Spirit, holiness fills His very nature.  he is not sanctified, but sanctifies.”
  • “Are you not ashamed, my opponent, when you hear the Apostle’s words: ‘You are God’s temple and God’s Spirit dwells in you’? (1 Cor.3: 16) Is a slave’s house honored with the title of temple?  How can someone who calls Scripture ‘God-inspired’ (since it was written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit) use language that insults and belittles Him?”
  • “We worship God from God, confessing the uniqueness of the persons, while maintaining the unity of the Monarchy.”
  • “Moses was wise enough to realize that triteness and familiarity breed contempt, but the unusual and the unfamiliar naturally commands eager interest.”
  • “…every time we bend our knees for prayer and then rise again, we show by this action that through sin we fell down to earth, but our Creator, the Lover of Mankind, has called us back to heaven.”  

Read Full Post »

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 Chemnitz has been called “The Second Martin”, in terms of his importance in the Evangelical (Lutheran) Church.  He is the principal of author of The Formula of Concord, the last of the Confessions in The Book of Concord: The Confessions of Lutheran Church.  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.  I have heard  many a person and read many a book asserting  that we teach “Biblical, nondenominational, non-sectarian Christianity” and then deny the Sacraments.  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 of Christ 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.

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: