Posts Tagged ‘grace’

The Prayer of the Day

O  Lord, as we have known the incarnation of Your Son Jesus Christ by the message of the angel to the Virgin Mary, so by the message of His cross and passion bring us to the glory of His resurrection; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. 

The Old Testament Reading for the Day: Isaiah 7:10-14

Psalm 45: 7-17

The Epistle Reading:  Hebrews 10: 4-10

The Gospel Reading for the DayLuke 1:26-38

The Annunciation of Our Lord:  The angel Gabriel appears to Mary and announces that God has shown her favor and will use her as the means for the Messiah’s birth. So Mary conceives Jesus when the angel says: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you” (Luke 1:35). This same Spirit who hovered over the waters and brought forth creation (Genesis 1:2) will now “hover over” the waters of Mary’s womb to conceive the creation’s Redeemer. As the Holy Spirit comes upon Mary, she conceives Jesus “through her ear” (as Martin Luther says). The one who is conceived is called Holy, the Son of God. This is the moment of the incarnation of our Lord. The date of the Annunciation falls on March 25, because the Ancient Church believed the crucifixion occurred on that date. In antiquity, people linked the day of a person’s conception with the day of his or her death. Thus, in the Annunciation, the Church joined together both the incarnation of Jesus and the atonement He accomplished. (The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

Luther preached that the greatest miracle this day was not that the Virgin conceived, but she believed.  The conception was an oral one, through the ear.  “Let it be according to Thy Word” and this Word is the Word of the Lord, the Promise, the Gospel, the Good News.  The Annunciation, or the Announcement, was without fanfare, no media crowding about, no Tweets, no TV cameras in the hick town of Nazareth. This announcement was quiet as a silent night yet spoke and would speak volumes. This announcement is for the womb of the blessed Virgin Mary and this announcement is for the beloved Son’s tomb one day for us to hear another angel’s announcement: He is not here. He is risen!  These annunciations of the Word is for us to hear so that the Lord is conceived in us in the same faith as the Virgin Mary:  “Let it be according to Thy Word”:

How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” (Romans 10)

This announcement of the free and freeing forgiveness of sinners from the One. 

“…who was
”(From the 2nd Article of the Apostles Creed)

This Annunciation has gone forth and still is  into the world: through the ear and into the heart, knowing the heart is a rusty tin can of sin,  and  made new in Jesus Christ by His grace alone, faith saving through the Word, taught, preached, administered in the Sacraments.  In the world of grand announcements and annunciation of sin and death, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of the Virgin Mary and Son of the Father, is for our  renunciation of the world, the flesh and the devil in the Annunciation to the Virgin. As Mary, we with the Virgin Mary,as His Church, share in the same faith as Mary in her Son, our Son as well, that prays: “Let it be according to Your Word”.  

 For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
    and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9)

Read Full Post »

This posting is a follow-up to the previous one regarding Lucas Cranach the Elder‘s painting, “The Allegory of Law and Grace“.

There is not one painting with the theme of Law and Grace by Lucas Cranach the Elder, but many paintings and in addition his drawings and woodcuts on the same theme.  This theme was so popular that another German artist, Hans Holbein the Younger painted the same allegory.

Lucas Cranach and his family were friends of the Luthers.  Their friendship in Christ is most likely responsible for the differences between two paintings of the theme Law and Grace by the artist.  Note the differences below.  The first one is the earlier Prague painting, the next one is the later Gotha painting.  What are the differences?  


“Gotha” Type

Let’s first look at the less obvious change.  In the “Prague” painting, on the Law side we see depicted a group of tents in the background illustrating the narrative of the bronze serpent in the wilderness (Numbers 21:8-10  ) which our Lord used to describe His Messianic role, see John 3:13-15 Note that in the second painting the “Gotha” panel it has been moved into the Gospel side.  John Dillenberger in his book, Images and Relics in the time of the Reformation and the Renaissance, notes the high probability, given the friendship between Cranach and Luther that Cranach  made this change of  depiction, because Cranach had bee more fully catechized by Dr. Luther.  But why the change?

 Luther did not distinguish between law and gospel in terms of Old Testament and New Testament, for there was law in the New Testament, and gospel in the Old. The other subjects fell easily into either the Old or New Testament divisions. But law and gospel did not easily fall into one or the other testament, thus requiring a decision. The scene of the serpents that devoured the people, who then were saved by their looking at the elevated serpent, is recorded in the Old Testament; but it is actually the symbol of grace. The church had interpreted the serpent being lifted up as a prefiguration of Christ having been lifted up. Luther, looking at the Cross, could…speak of the “brazen serpent Christ,” thereby showing his radical reading of the Old Testament from a Christological perspective.[1]

A correction on the quote above:  the Church did not interpret the bronze serpent being lifted up as a prefiguration of Christ’s crucifixion, no, Christ did! Again, Luther did not come up with “his radical reading of the Old Testament” from the perspective of the accomplishment of salvation in Jesus Christ  (“christological”) on his own.  St. Augustine centuries earlier said that the Old Testament is the New Testament concealed and the New Testament is the Old Testament revealed. This unity of Testaments in Jesus Christ is inherent in the texts of both Old and New Testaments,  Dillenberger is right on target, though, that the notion that the OT   equals Law and NT equals Gospel/Grace is incorrect.

Now to the obvious difference in the paintings:  the Man, that is Adam, in the earlier painting is smack dab in the middle.  In the later painting, he is on both sides. Dillenberger in the quote above correctly wrote that the earlier painting suggests a decision by Adam as to which side he wants to be in.  Indeed, Luther may just have corrected his friend!

“…the Gotha panel becomes the norm, perhaps because it was closer to what Luther meant. It provided a picture of the ramifications of law and gospel for each person, rather than a demand that either law or gospel be accepted.[2]

It sure looks like in the earlier panel Adam, that is all of us, needs to make our decision for Christ.  The panel of the Law shows the depth of sin, death and the power of the devil.  Only the spiritual use of the Law, showing us our sin, can we know the depths. First, given the graphic illustration of the Law, it’s a “no brainer” as to a decision!  But even so the Old Adam tenaciously will hold onto the “dearest souvenirs of hell”(C. S. Lewis). And the subtle serpent will not present himself so baldy, but in disguise as “light”. We can not make the move by our decision from the left panel to the right panel:  only the Lord can and has through the preaching and teaching of the Gospel does the Holy Spirit literally transfer us from Law to Grace:

He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:13-14/ emphasis my own)

So that, we are not under Law but under grace:

 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. (Romans 6: 13-14)

The Law is necessary in the second panel to show us our sin and point us ever to our Savior lifted up on the Cross, so we do not present our “members” as instruments for unrighteousness, but      “…to God as instruments for righteousness”, because as the Apostle plainly states, “SINCE,  you are not under law but under grace.” (emphasis my own).  Luther posted his 95 Theses on purpose on the eve of All Saints Day, November 1.  The second painting depicts more closely the Scripture and the verses cited.  It is a wonderful reminder not only of God’s grace in Jesus Christ but the power of His overwhelming  Sacrifice which alone, ALONE transfers us  in His rule and reign, saints by grace, not our works, so that by His grace we will produce fruit pleasing in His sight. So note, the tree in the middle is fruitless on the law side, but fruitful unto salvation in Jesus. 

By grace! None dare lay claim to merit;
Our works and conduct have no worth.
God in His love sent our Redeemer,
Christ Jesus, to this sinful earth;
His death did for our sins atone,
And we are saved by grace alone

Blessed Reformation Day and All Saints Day!

[1] Pages 98-100, Images and Relics by John Dillenberger (Oxford University Press, 1999)

[2] Page 100, ibid

Read Full Post »

The appointed New Testament reading for today (10/14/13)  in the Daily Lectionary is  St. Matthew 12: 38-50.  This Lord’s comparison between Himself and Jonah is found here:  Matthew 12:38-40. Based upon these verses, and other verses. these are some of the similarities and differences between Jonah and Jesus for your edification and encouragement:

  • Both were sent to preach repentance (Jonah 3: 1;  St. Matthew 4: 17).
  • Both preached the Word to the Gentiles (John 4: 1-45).
  • Both spent three days and three nights in the belly of a beast.
  • Both Jonah and Jesus are “signs” to their generations and ours as well.

I think here is where the similarities end, as Jesus said,  “…behold, something greater than Jonah is here.” (St. Matthew 12: 41)

  • Jonah fled from his calling to preach repentance.   Jesus did not but He  purposely sought to preach repentance (Matthew 4:17),  and He sent the Apostles to do the same (St. Luke 24: 47)
  • Jonah fled from the Presence of the LORD, Jesus always sought the Presence of His Father (Matthew 14:23;   Matthew 26:36Luke 2:49).
  • Jonah was embittered at God’s grace for the Ninevites that they repented and the Lord saved them (Jonah 4:2);  Jesus rejoices always over the repentance of one sinner (Luke 15).
  • Jonah lived in the belly of the great fish for 3 days and 3 night, Jesus did not so live (Luke 9:22).
  • Jonah was thrown into the deeps of the sea to save the sailors on that ship (Jonah 1);  Jesus was thrown into the depths by us all  thereby  forgiving us all and so saving all those who by faith believe on His Name (John 1:12-14) . 

Read Full Post »

For those who were in college and/or adults during Watergate, Charles “Chuck” Colson was a name synonomous with the lust of power leading to criminal acts.  Below is the obituary from the National Review.  I was pleased by the fact that  the writer included a Scripture verse, St. John 15: 19,  from the upcoming Sunday’s Gospel reading John 15: 9-17. I think it is appropriately cited.  I include this obit to note the passing a witness to Jesus Christ.  I also include this obit because it encapsulates the way the Lord works through His Word:  Law and Gospel.  I comment on that after the obit.

Ernest Hemingway, Mad Men, the Nixon White House: A style of post-war macho bluster found its final form in the Watergate tapes. One of the main blusterers was Charles Colson, counsel to the president from 1969 to 1973. “When I complained to Colson,” wrote Nixon in his memoirs, “I felt confident that something would be done. I was rarely disappointed.” After Colson was charged with approving the break-in of Daniel Ellsberg’s office, a friend gave him a copy of Mere Christianity, by C. S. Lewis, and read aloud a passage saying that pride “is the complete anti-God state of mind.” From standing at the right hand of a president, he fell before the King of King   who took him, just as He said He would. Colson’s time in jail opened his eyes to the suffering of other convicted criminals, and he devoted himself to Prison Fellowship Ministries, which now has programs in 1,300 prisons nationwide. In Christian theology, election refers to God’s saving grace: “I have chosen you,and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit.” Colson won the election of his life. Dead at 80. R.I.P

Reflection:  The sequence is important in this obituary as it is in the life of every Christian:  Law, then promise, or Gospel.  Mr. Colson found himself charged for a criminal act of great import in the life of our nation…a nation, by the way, conceived in liberty and freedom from government to perpetuate criminal acts against its citizens or intervene in our first amendment rights.  Mr. Colson read that pride is the “complete anti-God state of mind”. Yes.  This was the Law convicting Mr. Colson.  “Pride goes before destruction,and a haughty spirit before a fall.” Proverbs 16:18  Like David after his adulterous affair with Bathsheba, Mr. Colson was cut to the quick:  see Hebrews 4:11-13   His repentance was true because immediately he heard of Jesus  Christ:  “…he fell before the King of King   who took him, just as He said He would.”  And that is called, grace, always preceded by God’s judgment.  Mr. Colson was found out by the Lord and the Lord found him.  He won the election of his life:  the Lord voted to save him in his anti-God state of life upon the Cross.  You as well. The Lord’s vote is the only that counts in His election and it is His forgiveness.  In Christ, Mr. Colson bore fruit:  the salvation of many through in ministry to prisoners.  Your fruitfulness may not make the papers but it will give hope to those around you.  In His grace it will be His love as He first loved us.

Merciful Lord, cleanse and defend Your Church by the sacrifice of Christ.  United with Him in Holy Baptism, give us grace to receive with thanksgiving the fruits of His redeeming work and daily follow in HIs way, through the same Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Read Full Post »

Please watch the video in Jesus Prayer Rug: Miracle or Scam?

Obviously a scam.  I post it as a warning and a possible teaching moment. According to the  Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions, why is this a scam?

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: