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Posts Tagged ‘justification’

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)

 The Augsburg Confession:  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 common understanding that the Lutheran Church began on October 31, 1517, when Martin Luther posted the 95 Theses on the Wittenberg church door, is mistaken:

It was on this day, when the true and unadulterated Confession of the Catholic and Apostolic Faith was presented in Augsburg, that the Lutheran Church ‘began’. This was not declare independance  and begin a ‘new’ Church but the continuation of the “one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church” which proclaims justification by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, alone. Rev. Professor Hermann Sasse wrote it well: 

“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)

The Fathers at Augsburg were not really trying to “change” or update 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, literally, “according to the whole”, of the Bible, as when the faith was evangelically proclaimed and taught by the Church Fathers. 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.

Even though historically significant as the posting of the 95 Theses was in Church history, Luther would later distance himself from some of his theses as being too papist.  It was in Augsburg that the Catholic Faith, reformed according to the Gospel and Justification was presented that the Lutheran Church continued.

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.

 For further reading on the Presentation

 

 

 

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This is Paris’ Pont des Arts Bridge for pedestrians.  In the 2006 novel I Want You by Italian author Federico Mocca, 2 Roman lovers put a lock on a bridge and throw the key into the Tiber River.  This sparked a huge phenomenon in Paris in which several bridges are now completely encrusted with locks upon which love-struck tourist couples initial a padlock before attaching it to the bridge and throwing the key into the river.  The local magistrate ordered the padlocks removed from the Pont des Arts bridge since they weigh 45 tons and are threatening the bridge’s structural integrity. (Source:  The Week, June 12, 2015;  NY Times, “Paris Bridge’s Love Locks Are Taken Down”)

Couples in love instinctively seek a lock on their love because the innate understanding is “love is as strong as death” and “love never ends”.    So many songs are about the eternal nature of love.  Those two Scripture quotes indicate the everlasting nature of love for “…God is love…” and the Lord never ends.  I think in a day of such relativism, this  phenomenon of “love-locks” practically verifies the absolute Biblical truth from the Lord’s own creation of us, and the new creation in Christ, that we are created to love and  love never ends.  Love is supposed to as it is sensed by couples in love, you know “diamonds are forever” and the engagement ring.

 In the day in which “making love” has devolved into “hooking-up”, there is still this romantic instinct of  ‘eternal’ love.   I wonder, though, how many “love-locks” were put on the bridge, say, by one person coupling and decoupling?  It is not that sexual love is bad, for the Lord made husbands and wives so to  love.  The problem is what we do with said love. We want it to last, but we can not on our own.  I wonder how many of those couples wished, even within hours of putting that padlock on that bridge, they should not have thrown the key away!  

When many people say “God is love”, they really mean “love is God” (C. S. Lewis). Love on its own will not hold us fast.  There is only one way:  God’s holy love.  Love and holiness go together and the only “love-lock” that secures us is the love of  God in Jesus Christ for couples ‘falling in love’, and for friends, for families, with our neighbors and our enemies. The weight of those padlocks overloaded the Ponts des Arts bridge as  do all our fallen loves. Christ is the only love-lock bridge between God and man, between all men and women.  He has borne all our fallen love for our forgiveness because God so loved the world He gave His only begotten Son (John 3: 16) and our unholy love broke Him and He is risen. Truly, “…love never ends”.    

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1 Corinthians 3: 16-17:

Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?  If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.

The “you” in these verses is the second person plural, as “y’all”.  The Church is the Body of Christ filled with the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:  12-13) and the Christian’s body. The word “temple” in the Greek is naos which designated the Holy of Holies.  The Temple can be destroyed by desecrating the Temple with the practice of sinning without contrition and repentence. The Corinthians were ‘hooking-up’ with prostitutes and justifying themselves that this was okay.  The ravages of sexually transmitted diseases, though not mentioned in 1 Corinthians, were known back then, and yet pales in comparison to the spiritual ravaging.  Such sin desecrates the Temple, body and soul.  The Apostle Paul is emphatic in his Gospel statement: “…you yourselves are that temple”.  We have been made sacred by the blood of Christ preached into these bodies and souls by the Holy Spirit through the Word of the Cross.  

19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. (1 Corinthians 6)

“…you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.” (1 Peter 1)

Below is a quote from Flannery O’Connor’s short story, “A Temple of the Holy Ghost” and is a great illustration of the Scripture above.     The quote is from the beginning of the story in which a mother and her daughter go to pick-up  two younger female cousins from their convent school, Mount St. Scholastica. The girls are into boys and clothes and are quite silly.  On the car ride, in the back seat, the two cousins  keep on giggling as they keep on calling each other, “Temple One” and “Temple Two”.  When the daughter and her cousins are conversing about someone else, the Mother has finally had enough with this silliness coming from the back seat:         

                 “…she said, “That’ll be about enough out of you,” and changed the subject. She asked them why they called each other Temple One and Temple Two and this sent them off into gales of giggles. Finally they managed to explain. Sister Perpetua, the oldest nun at the Sisters of Mercy in Mayville, had given them a lecture on what to do if a young man should—here they laughed so hard they were not able to go on without going back to the beginning—on what to do if a young man should—they put their heads in their laps—on what to do if —they finally managed to shout it out—if he should “behave in an ungentlemanly manner with them in the back of an automobile.” Sister Perpetua said they were to say, “Stop sir! I am a Temple of the Holy Ghost!” and that would put an end to it. The child sat up off the floor with a blank face. She didn’t see anything so funny in this…

            Her mother didn’t laugh at what they had said. “I think you girls are pretty silly,” she said. “After all, that’s what you are—Temples of the Holy Ghost.”

The two of them looked up at her, politely concealing their giggles, but with astonished faces as if they were beginning to realize that she was made of the same stuff as Sister Perpetua.  Miss Kirby preserved her set expression and the child thought, it’s all over her head anyhow. I am a Temple of the Holy Ghost, she said to herself, and was pleased with the phrase. It made her feel as if somebody had given her a present.”

O Lord, stir up the hearts of Your faithful people to welcome and joyfully receive Your Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ, that He may find in us a fit dwelling place;  who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

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Most of the symbols of the 12 Apostles include a depiction of the instrument of their martyrdom. For Matthias it may have been an ax.

Lessons:  Isaiah 66: 1-2  Psalm 134  Acts of the Apostles 1: 15-26   St. Matthew 11:  25-30

Prayer of the Day

Almighty God, You chose Your servant Matthias to be numbered among the Twelve. Grant that Your Church, ever preserved from false teachers, may be taught and guided by faithful and true pastors; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. 

St. Matthias, Apostle

St. Matthias is one of the lesser-known apostles. According to the Early Church Fathers, Matthias was one of the seventy-two sent out by Jesus in Luke 10:1-20. After the ascension, Matthias was chosen by lot to fill the vacancy in the Twelve resulting from the death of Judas Iscariot (Acts 1:16-25). Early Church tradition places Matthias in a number of locations. Some historians suggest that he went to Ethiopia; others place him in Armenia, the first nation to adopt Christianity as a national religion. Martyred for his faith, Matthias may well have met his death at Colchis in Asia Minor, around AD 50. The Church of St. Matthias at Trier, Germany, claims the honor of being the final burial site for Matthias, the only one of the Twelve to be buried in Europe north of the Alps.

Reflection: From Luther’s Lectures on Galatians (see Galatians 1:  11-12), volume 27,Luther’s Works:

. . . Christ wanted no one to be made an apostle by men or the will of men but as the result of a call from Him alone. For this reason the apostles did not dare elect Matthias; they gained his appointment from heaven in answer to their prayer. And it was from heaven that God called Paul himself and made him an apostle, in particular through the voice of the Holy Spirit. “Set apart for Me,” He says, “Paul and Barnabas for the work to which I have called them.” Thus Paul boasts in Rom. 1: , that he was set apart for the Gospel of God,  inasmuch as he himself, together with Barnabas, was set apart for the uncircumcised and the Gentiles, while the rest of the apostles were sent to those who were circumcised.

Note also that Paul makes the name “apostle” so emphatically expressive of an office and of dignity that he uses it as a participle and says “an apostle, not from men,” which means “sent, not from men”. . . . All these facts aim to make you see with what care Christ has established and fortified His church, lest anyone rashly presume to teach without being sent by Him or by those whom He has sent. For just as the Word of Cod is the church’s first and greatest benefit, so, on the other hand, there is no greater harm by which the church is destroyed than the word of man and the traditions of this world. God alone is true, and every man a liar. Finally, just as David once left behind all the means by which Solomon was to build the temple, so Christ has left behind the Gospel and other writings, in order that the church might be built by means of them, not by human decrees.(emphasis my own)

The building materials chosen will show for themselves on the Day if they were the Lord’s building materials or not (1 Corinthians 3:11-13.  The Gospel and other writings, that is the entirety of the Scripture, along with the Sacraments and from Word and Sacraments, preaching, teaching, praying, doing good works builds up the Church.  Through it all, it is finally and fully the Lord Who builds His Church (“I will build My Church”, see  St. Matthew 16:18).  

The apostle Matthias was a key building block in the Lord’s Church  (see 1 Peter 2:5, Ephesians 2:19-21). We do not know much about him.  This reminds me of The Tomb to the Unknown Soldier and the saying on it:  “Here Rests in Honored Glory an American Soldier known but to God”.  “Here rests in honored glory a saint known but to God”.  I hear on TV someone saying of someone who died, “I’ll remember him always”…as long as the “always” is that person’s life span. We can not remember “always”, that is forever.  The Lord remembers His saints, by name as He baptized them in His Name.  You and I won’t be remembered always on this earth and in this world.  We will all be unknown saints, yet built into the Lord’s Church, which He promised the gates of hell shall not prevail against it, when built with God’s Word, and not by human decrees building the church in their own image.  When parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles, friends told you about Jesus, said as God said there is right and wrong, who forgave you in Christ as they were forgiven, you were being built up in the template of His Church, His temple, His Body. Except his name,we only know the name of Matthias and that he was chosen to replace Judas amongst the apostles.  For Matthias, your ancestors in the faith of the Church, like Matthias were called by the Lord in His death and resurrection, awaiting our Easter day.  Come, Lord Jesus. 

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Almighty God, we praise You for the service of Philipp Melanchthon to the one, holy catholic, and apostolic Church, in the renewal of its life in fidelity to Your Word and promise. Raise up in these gray and latter days faithful teachers and pastors, inspired by Your Spirit, whose voices will give strength to Your Church and proclaim the ongoing reality of Your kingdom; through Your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Bio:  Philip Melanchthon (1497-1560) was a brilliant student of the classics and a humanist scholar. In 1518 he was appointed to teach along with Martin Luther at the University of Wittenberg. At Luther’s urging, Melanchthon began teaching theology and Scripture in addition to his courses in classical studies. In April of 1530, Emperor Charles V called an official meeting between the representative of Lutheranism and Roman Catholicism, hoping to effect a meeting of minds between two opposing groups. Since Luther was at that time under papal excommunication and an imperial ban, Melanchthon was assigned the duty of being the chief Lutheran representative at this meeting. He is especially remembered and honored as the author of the Augsburg Confession, which was officially presented by the German princes to the emperor on June 25, 1530, as the defining document of Lutheranism within Christendom.  After the presentation of the Augsburg Confession, the papal church wrote a response to it, the Confutation.  Once again, Melanchthon was called upon to write a defense of the Augsburg Confession. The Augsburg Confession and The Apology of the Augsburg Confession are the first two confessions in The Book of Concord (1580). Melanchthon died on April 19, 1560.

Reflection:   He was Greek and Hebrew scholar.  Philip Melanchthon is an unlikely saint. He taught Luther the Greek of the New Testament (Koine or common Greek).  Like Luther,  Melanchthon was a professor and at the risk of profiling the man, he looks like an egghead professor.  The Lord’s saints are certainly not uniform but they are united in the one true Faith to confess Jesus is Lord.  Melanchthon was clear in the Augsburg Confession regarding the article by which the Church stands or falls:

Article I, Of God:  Our Churches, with common consent, do teach that the decree of the Council of Nicaea concerning the Unity of the Divine Essence and concerning the Three Persons, is true and to be believed without any doubting that is to say, there is one Divine Essence which is called and which is God: eternal, without body, without parts, of infinite power, wisdom, and goodness, the Maker and Preserver of all things, visible and invisible; and yet there are three Persons, of the same essence and power, who also are coeternal, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. And the term “person” they use as the Fathers have used it, to signify, not a part or quality in another, but that which subsists of itself…

Article IV, Of Justification:  Also they 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 for Christ’s sake, who, by His death, has made satisfaction for our sins.  This faith God imputes for righteousness in His sight. Rom. 3 and 4.

Professor Melanchthon demonstrates that the Faith confessed in the Nicene Creed is the justifying faith in what Christ has done for us in His death.  The faith is Biblical, confessional, evangelical and catholic.  If we could be justified, made right by our own “strength, merits, or works”, there would be no need for Jesus Christ.  Justifying our selves is the daily grind of news, op-ed pieces, talk show ‘confessions’, and the like and it is pitiful. It is as pitiful as Adam covering his shame with the sham clothes of fig leaves.  A saying that made the rounds a few years back was, “You can run but you can’t hide”,is truthful.  The Old Adam knows that.  Here is Jesus, true God and true man, searching as a father for his lost son, as a shepherd for the one lost sheep, as woman looking for her lost coin,  loving us to our death and raising us up by His indestructible life (Hebrews 7: 15-17).  His Passion is our passion as we approach Lent this week.  

“O Spirit, who did once restore The church that it might yet recall The bringer of good news to all: Breathe on your cloven church once more That in these gray and latter days There may be those whose life is praise, Each life a high doxology Unto the holy Trinity.”

(O God, O Lord of Heaven and Earth, hymn by Martin Franzmann)

 

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O God, by the leading of a star You made known Your only-begotten Son to the Gentiles. Lead us, who know You by faith, to enjoy in heaven the fullness of Your divine presence; through the same  Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Old Testament: Isaiah 60:1–6
The Psalm: Psalm 24
The Epistle: Ephesians 3:1–12
The Gospel: St. Matthew. 2:1–12

Intro:  The feast of the Epiphany of Our Lord commemorates not only an event but presents an idea that assumes concrete form only through the facts of our Lord’s life, that is the Incarnation. The idea of Epiphany is that the Christ who was born in Bethlehem is recognized by the world as God.  Epiphany means “manifestation”:  “God in man made manifest” (see hymn, “Songs of Thankfulness and Praise”, #394, Lutheran Service Book). At Christmas, God appears as man, and at Epiphany, this man appears before the world as God. Christ is true God and true Man:  “…one altogether, not by confusion of substance, but by unity of person” (The Athansasian Creed).  The manifestations of the Trinity, the signs and wonders performed by this man, and all His miracles have the purpose of proving to men that Jesus is God.  On the Western Church, the story of the Magi has been associated with this feast day but in the Orthodox Churches, this day is called Theophany:  again, God manifest, literal translation.  They remember and rejoice in His Baptism in the Jordan River. Back to the Hymn “Songs of Thankfulness and Praise”, stanzas 1-3, indicates that in our western churches that this was not forgotten.  The 1st Sunday after The Epiphany is The Baptism of Our Lord when the first revelation of the Holy Trinity occurs at the Jordan .  Then one more epiphany:  Jesus changes water into wine.  All three are public epiphanys of God in the man made manifest for Jew and Gentile. As Gentiles who were brought to faith in Jesus Christ, the Magi represent all believers from the Gentile world. 

This day has also been called Christmas of the Gentiles and Gentiles are most of us reading this blog. And the Magi were most likely, well, notorious Gentiles.  Just think: the Magi, foreign astrolagers followed God’s Word to the Child (Mt. 2:  5-6) to worship the Jewish King, circumcised on the 8th Day according to covenant with Abraham (St. Luke 2: 21), presented in the Temple 40 days after His birth (St. Luke 2: 22-38) ,  is their king as well!  Many Christians do not so follow God’s Word, His inerrant Word in these dark days, as did the Magi! And the Word is the only way they could find the Way, as the Way, the Word made flesh, found us. I think T. S. Eliot’s poem, “The Journey of the Magi”, (one of my favorites) is a great and creative take on the Biblical narrative today:

Poem: The Journey of the Magi

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Introduction:  On this date in 2004, at a joint chapter retreat of the Society of the Holy Trinity in Hickory, North Carolina,  a dear mentor and friend, Pastor Louis A. Smith died.   He was born in New Jersey and married to Helen.  They have four daughters.  Lou could preach in German, sight translate Greek and Hebrew and knew other languages. He was a campus minister, parish pastor, writer and spent three years teaching the Confessions in Namibia.  He loved British football.  He was also the funniest person I ever knew.  He knew the Lutheran Confessions as he knew the stats for his beloved N. Y. Yankees…even better! He was faithful pastor and theologian of the Church. He is a major reason why I stayed in the Lutheran Church. The following quotes are either from Pr. Smith’s sermons and articles or from my memory of many conversations with him.  Talking with Lou epitomized Luther’s saying that the conversation and the consolation of the brethren is almost a sacrament.

  • Note:  the NT Greek, episcopos, means “oversight” and which is translated “bishop” or “overseer”.  We were talking about bishops in the ELCA and Pastor Smith said:  “Episcopos” means oversight, not overlook.”
  • “Most bad theology begins with bad taste.”
  • Towards the end of her life, Pastor Smith’s mother lived with Lou and his wife Helen.  Mom was quite a handful for Pastor and Mrs. Smith because of her rather cantankerous personality.  Lou and I were talking about that and Lou said, “You know, it is really hard to keep the 4th Commandment”.
  • Me: “I’ve always had troubles with the “unity” or “Cana” candle ceremony in a wedding service and I can’t put my finger on why.”Lou:  “Note:  you don’t need two candles to light one candle, so yeah, something is going on here.  The physical element of the sacrament of marriage is the two become one flesh.  Since most couples have already done that and so the ‘unity candle’ has been introduced  and has  become  an ersatz ‘sacrament’”.
  • “I’ve told Church Councils at meetings about my salary, that when it comes to preaching, baptizing and presiding, I do this for nothing.  Church council meetings:  This is what I get paid for.”
  • Me:  “I usually am flummoxed when asked, When did the Lord call you into the Ministry?” Lou:  “When you were ordained, Mark.”
  • Me:  It is said that Lutheran Church is a “confessing movement” in the church catholic.  Lou:  “I was not baptized into a movement but the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.”
  • “The interpretive task is not so much to understand the Word of the Bible as it is to stand under the Word of the Bible. It is, after all, not the Bible that is the puzzle that we need to solve. It is we who are the puzzle and the Bible that will solve us.” (from an address in my possession)
  • “…the Bible is clear…the Biblical writers say what they mean and mean what they say. This, of course, does not mean that we immediately grasp what they say and mean. But the fault for that does not lie with the Biblical text. It lies with us; and that for any number of reasons. We might not yet have learned the grammar. We might not yet have learned the vocabulary or the particular idiom of an author. Luther’s struggle with the “righteousness” of God might be an example. He had imported a foreign notion of righteousness into the Biblical text and so misunderstood the text; to his own great pain. And it took a goodly amount of reading before the Bible could straighten him out. But in the end, the Bible’s clarity won the day”(from an address in my possession)
  • “…both hunger and thirst make us aware of our mortality. Guess what? THEY ARE SUPPOSED TO! That is their theological meaning. Hunger and thirst are sacraments of our mortality. They are the felt reminders of the fact that we do not have life within us.” (from a  Lenten sermon)
  • “Proper (Godly)  repentance is not a sorrow or a terror or a vow to change, so that we can escape the divine death sentence. Proper (Godly)  repentance is to accept the rightness of the death sentence and to submit to it; to submit to being put to death under the law. And without the real Gospel that is never done.”
  • “…I finally discovered the difference between a eulogy and a sermon.  Forgive me if I tell you what you already know. The difference is this:  In a eulogy, one person who purports to know another, stands up and says some nice things that are not necessarily true about a dead human being.  In a sermon, a person authorized by the Gospel of Jesus Christ says some true things that are not necessarily nice about a living God.”(from  a Lenten sermon)
  • “God does not justify ungodliness but the ungodly.”

When we seek relief
From a long-felt grief;
When temptations come alluring,
Make us patient and enduring;
Show us that bright shore
Where we weep no more.

(“Jesus, Lead Thou On, Lutheran Service Book #718, stanza 3)

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